Kallis century frustrates England
Close South Africa 279 for 6 (Kallis 108*, Steyn 26*) v England
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Jacques Kallis has proven, time and again, that he is South Africa's man for a crisis, but with his country's series prospects in serious jeopardy following another meltdown from his fellow batsmen, he responded with the 33rd Test century of his 14-year-career, and his seventh in 28 matches against England, to enable his country to finish an enthralling first day at Newlands with some measure of parity.
By the time bad light closed in with England cranking up the intensity with the second new ball, Kallis was sitting pretty on 108 not out from 188 balls, having added 63 invaluable runs for the seventh wicket with Dale Steyn, who justified his promotion to No. 8 with a calm and composed 26. Mark Boucher also chipped in with a crucial half-century, as South Africa hauled themselves back from the brink at 127 for 5, at precisely the moment that the ghosts of their Durban demise were beginning to swirl around the ground.
In this same fixture five years ago, Kallis ground England into the Newlands dirt with an uncompromising and matchwinning 149, but this - if anything - was an even more masterful performance. Whereas that innings came in baking-hot conditions and against a flagging attack who were still weary after three unsuccessful days in the field at Kingsmead, this innings was compiled against a backdrop of familiar adversity, against a team still buoyant from their historic victory in the second Test. Kallis's participation in this series had been in doubt following his recent rib fracture, but as England were reminded at Centurion before Christmas, there will never be anything remotely brittle about his mindset.
Aside from a top-edged pull on 64 that flew clear of Andrew Strauss running back from the slips, Kallis offered scarcely a hint of an opportunity for the best part of five hours. He brought up his fifty from 106 balls with a measured push down the ground off Graeme Swann, before crashing the part-time spin of Kevin Pietersen through the covers for four to reach his hundred from a further 67. With a keen understanding of the whereabouts of his off stump - an instinct that he mislaid to devastating effect at Durban - Kallis capitalised on the slightest hint of width, while his driving down the ground, particularly through mid-on, was blessed with masterful timing.
Without his contribution, South Africa might well have been sunk. The opening session of the match had been reduced to an hour-and-a-half due to morning drizzle, and the dank conditions persuaded Andrew Strauss to bowl first after winning the toss, just as he had done in the opening match of the series at Centurion. This time, however, there was little doubt that he had made the correct call, as James Anderson removed the struggling Ashwell Prince with his fourth ball of the match, tormenting his outside edge before inducing a gloved edge to Matt Prior.
Three balls later - in arguably the most crucial passage of play of the day - South Africa's captain should have been on way as well. Graham Onions' first delivery of the innings was a touch wide outside off, and Graeme Smith went after it with a hard-handed drive, only for the ball to skew off a thick edge and straight into Swann's midriff at second slip. The chance, however, went begging as Paul Collingwood, England's usual second-slipper, looked on from fine leg, where he was nursing the dislocated finger that had put his participation in the match in jeopardy.
The reprieve had a twin impact. Firstly, it persuaded Smith to cash in on his good fortune and carry the attack back to England, as he did twice in two balls in the same Onions over by rocking back to pull a brace of long-hops through square leg for four. Secondly, it ensured that Kallis would not have to come to the middle for another hour, and therefore England were deprived a golden opportunity to pile on the pressure while the conditions were most clearly in the favour of their seamers. Instead, Hashim Amla survived on his wits for 56 balls against the trio of Anderson, Onions and Stuart Broad. On 8, Broad was convinced he'd found Amla's outside edge, only for the reviewed decision to prove inconclusive, but it was Onions who eventually ended his stay on 14, pinning him lbw as attempted to play round his front pad.
Kallis and Smith carried South Africa to 51 for 2 at lunch, but in the second over after the break, Anderson found the perfect line and length, and just enough movement away from the left-hander to graze Smith's edge, and Prior behind the stumps completed the dismissal with a jubilant dive in front of first slip. Smith was gone for 30, and though the clouds began to disperse to make their seam attack less potent, England had done what Strauss had set out to do at the toss, and put the wind up South Africa to the tune of three early wickets.
Thereafter South Africa made the going look rather easier. AB de Villiers joined Kallis in a fourth-wicket stand of 76, and at the midway point of the afternoon session, South Africa were looking pretty comfortable on 127 for 3. But Swann, with a point to prove after his inauspicious start to 2010, struck twice in two balls to transform the dynamic of the innings. His first victim was de Villiers, who might have been given out stumped for 24 had England elected to use their final review, but was instead caught at short midwicket for 36 as he over-balanced on the drive and clipped in the air to Strauss. Then, one ball later, the struggling Duminy received a snorter from round the wicket that pitched on off, straightened and climbed at his edge, for Prior to send him on his way for his second golden duck in consecutive innings.
At 127 for 5, South Africa were in all sorts of trouble, and were ripe for the sort of plucking they received in their second innings at Durban. However, to the credit of Kallis and Boucher, they endured without fuss despite a hint of reverse swing, adding 56 in 16 overs before the break, and 89 in 25 in all. While Kallis bedded in and waited for the bowlers to err, the ever-pugnacious Boucher indulged in a counterattack, and drilled Swann out of the attack with three fours from consecutive balls, en route to a 79-ball fifty.
Broad eventually ended Boucher's stay on 51, as he nipped one off the seam to earn an lbw verdict from umpire Hill that could not be overturned on appeal, but England's hopes of a swift denouement were thwarted by another determined performance from Steyn, who had been promoted two places on the strength of his hard-hitting 47 at Durban. With more cloudy weather closing in, he and Kallis survived 3.2 overs against the new ball, to give South Africa a chance of posting a 300-plus total at a venue that has proved to be a lucky one in the past.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo