South Africa v Australia, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day February 27, 2009

Series could be a tale of the tails - Kallis

Jacques Kallis: "Mitchell Johnson is a good batter; he's certainly not a walking bonus point, he's far from it" © Getty Images

Jacques Kallis has predicted the series could come down to a battle of the tails after Australia's final five pairs contributed over 60% of their total in the first innings. Lower-order fightbacks were a trend during the series in Australia and on the difficult pitches in South Africa, where facing the new ball will be an enormous challenge, tail-end partnerships will again be vital.

Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson were the major contributors in Australia's lower order, in concert with the No. 6 Marcus North, and they took the score from 182 for 5 up to a powerful 466. South Africa's top order made a similarly shaky start and reached 49 for 3, and Kallis hopes that their lower order shows similar spirit to that of the visitors.

"Australia's tail is pretty decent," Kallis said. "Mitchell Johnson is a good batter; he's certainly not a walking bonus point, he's far from it. He can hold the bat and they've shown the whole summer that their tail can bat and they've put up some big performances in Australia as well. We realise that once we get them seven or eight down the innings certainly isn't over.

"We're hoping [our] tail doesn't have to bat tomorrow, maybe on day four or something. But our batters have worked on their technique and hopefully our tail can put on the performance that their tail did. I think it's going to be key moments and issues through the Test series which tail does wag better than the other."

Johnson made an unbeaten 96 but was a danger not only with the bat. After a quick innings break he immediately had an impact with the ball and drew an edge behind from Graeme Smith with the fifth delivery of the innings. Australia's bowlers summed up the conditions well but Kallis felt he and his own colleagues had bowled too short all day.

In South Africa's favour is the fact that they have plenty of experience in similarly difficult situations and by the close Neil McKenzie and AB de Villiers had compiled a useful 36-run stand. Kallis said the conditions wouldn't change dramatically over the course of the game and the key was to tough it out like they had in past years.

"There's going to something in it for the whole Test match," he said. "It's been like that for the last three or four years. It's been pretty bowler-friendly. It's going to be hard work but our guys will certainly be up for a few. We've done it before at the Wanderers. The guys will hopefully put out a big batting performance tomorrow."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo