Prince and Kallis tons punish Australia
Another day with plenty for the home crowd to cheer. After being outplayed in the first two Tests South Africa continued to boss Australia in Cape Town thanks to an imperious century from Ashwell Prince in his first international outing in over four months and a captain's innings from Jacques Kallis.
Prince, a mainstay of the South African middle order over the last couple seasons before he was sidelined by injury, was their leader for the most of the day. He led the charge with his second-highest Test score, a marathon innings that finally came to a close in controversial manner during the final session. Taking a cue from the man he replaced as stand-in captain, Kallis weighed in with his 31st Test century.
He may not have figured in South Africa's plans when the series began, but Prince slotted in to the unfamiliar opening role with a stylish, collected ton. He continued where he left off yesterday, in confident, authoritative fashion, to stride to his second-highest Test score. He did the hard work last evening and this morning, seeing off the new ball, and forged stands of 65 with Imraan Khan, 97 with Hashim Amla, and 150 with Kallis. Prince and Amla joined after an acrobatic reflex catch from Peter Siddle sent back Imraan and immediately found each other compatible. With scores of 47, 53, 30*, 51, 59, 57 and 43 to go with two failures in his last five Tests - all against Australia - Amla brought to the crease a degree of confidence and responded to Prince's solidity with a typically punchy innings.
Prince's only blemish came in the same over Amla edged a leaden-footed drive off Mitchell Johnson - another aborted half-century against Australia - when he flashed an edge over the slip cordon. Passing 3000 Test runs along the way, Prince ticked through the seventies and eighties without throwing his weight around, but the legspinner Bryce McGain was given a warm welcome on his introduction an hour into the session. With a three-card trick of boundaries, Prince moved from 93 to 105. The first was a touch risky as the ball sliced off the bat and raced away to the third-man boundary, but the next two were dismissive - a twinkle-toed hit over mid-off and a dismissive sweep in front of square.
With the series lost South Africa had not just proverbial pride to play for but also needed to sort out a reliable opening alternative to the injured Graeme Smith. In compiling an assured, unfussy 11th Test century, his second against Australia, Prince has shown that he has the necessary quality.
Kallis' start had been unlike Prince's. He was given the once-over by Johnson, copping nasty short deliveries on the shoulder and helmet that prompted an assortment of replacement helmets. At one stage 4 from 39 balls and struggling to find a run, Kallis channelled his ire on McGain.
In five balls he jumped to 18 with three disdainful shots, the biggest of the lot being a pull over midwicket for six. McGain's trash was littered to all part of Newlands, his penchant for half-trackers and juicy full tosses fodder for Kallis - that five-over spell cost 51. When Ricky Ponting tossed the ball to McGain after tea, Kallis welcomed him back with a six and four. To rub it in Prince clipped a six off his pads in an over that cost 18. A rare maiden was followed by a 13-run over. McGain took his cap and skulked out to the deep, having haemorrhaged 93 in ten disastrous overs; debuts don't come crueller.
Prince was cut off on 150 after six minutes of largely inconclusive replays. Australia felt he had gloved a Ben Hilfenhaus delivery down the leg side but Steve Bucknor sided with Prince. Hot Spot didn't show an impact on the glove but the third umpire Billy Bowden advised Bucknor to rule it out.
Kallis then duly marched to his century - though there was some confusion as to when he actually reached the landmark. Kallis stole an inside-edged single and broke into exuberant celebrations only to look back at Asad Rauf, who signalled leg-byes. Rauf and Bowden conferred and the decision was overturned. It didn't go down well with Ponting, who had words with Rauf as the electronic scoreboard rolled back Kallis' score to 99. When it finally went back to the correct figure, the crowd erupted louder than the first time.
Australia's attack, apart from the enthusiastic Siddle, bowling at a lively pace and not offering anything, was the weakest it has been all series. In the lead-up to this Test there was talk of how Johnson had found the inswinger and was even more dangerous against right-handers. However, he had no impact on Amla, who clipped and drove him with ease, or Kallis, who left alone without fuss. There was no swing for Hilfenhaus, Andrew McDonald was steady without ever threatening, and the last over before stumps summed up the day - McGain was called on and AB de Villiers, without a second thought, danced down and deposited him over the ropes.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo