South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 3, 2010

Kallis quashes Durban demons

Had Graeme Smith had been caught off Graham Onions' first ball of the match, South Africa's day could have unravelled amid memories of their Durban demise

This was a tough day for South Africa before a ball was even bowled. Makhaya Ntini's long and successful international career was, to all intents and purposes, brought to an end through his omission from the final XI, and when Ashwell Prince fell in the first over, the team's raw nerves were audibly jangling. Had Graeme Smith had been caught off Graham Onions' first ball of the match, their day could have unravelled amid memories of their Durban demise.

South Africa knew that they were likely to face a breaking point during this match, a moment in which their series hopes could have been permanently extinguished. They probably didn't expect it to come so early. At the end of an emotional day, they have managed to keep themselves alive at 279 for 6. For that their huge thanks must go to Jacques Kallis who, for the umpteenth time in his career, showed why he is South Africa's leading batsman.

Kallis adores playing at Newlands, his home ground, where he now averages 70.72 with six hundreds, and this was the third consecutive match in which he has registered three figures against England. He showed the technique to survive on a surface that offered something for the quicks throughout, but he was always in a position to attack when the bad ball came along. When he eventually joins the retirement list, he will leave a void as sizeable as any of the greats in the game.

The excellence of his unbeaten 108 was also highlighted by the performances of his middle-order colleagues. The fortunes of Kallis and JP Duminy, another home-town player, couldn't be more polarised at the moment. Duminy's troubled times continued when he pushed forward tentatively at his first ball from Graeme Swann and edged behind. It was a good delivery from Swann, but the lack of a full stride from Duminy telegraphed his lack of confidence.

Contrast that with the clear, strong and precise footwork of Kallis, who always seemed to be in the right position for any given shot, and even if he was caught slightly off guard, he had the skill to adjust to any vagaries off the surface. "He's very focused when he bats and very difficult to bowl at," said Jimmy Anderson. "The lateness that he plays the ball is incredible - and even when the ball is reversing he can pick it, which makes it even harder."

Duminy, though, can partly be excused his failure because he is clearly a batsman in a lean trot. The same can't be said of AB de Villiers, who has looked in prime touch throughout this series without yet building on his starts. He and Kallis had steadied South Africa's innings from an uncertain 51 for 3 after Smith edged behind shortly after lunch.

De Villiers was beginning to milk Swann and for once the offspinner was left needing to come up with some answers, and quickly. Or at least that should have been the case. Instead de Villiers chipped the softest of catches to midwicket and England could hardly believe their luck.

After trudging off, shaking his head disbelievingly, de Villiers disappeared into the dressing room and didn't reappear for about half an hour. When he eventually emerged, coach Mickey Arthur appeared to make some feelings quite clear. This is a time when South Africa really need their senior batsmen to come to the fore.

Kallis, though, is exempt from such criticism, and it was the partnership of 89 with his good friend Mark Boucher that brought South Africa back from the brink. There is a strong bond between the pair. "He's my next door neighbour so I have to enjoy him," Boucher joked.

"We are good friends off the field and we know each other's games and what makes each other tick. Sometimes we don't even have to say anything in the middle and you feel comfortable batting with him in that bubble he gets into. I've had a few important partnerships with him and today was another one."

Boucher, being a typically pugnacious wicketkeeper, decided to confront South Africa's predicament with aggression. This was particularly evident in his attitude towards Swann, whom he took for three consecutive boundaries, to back up his team's pre-match talk of taking on England's leading bowler.

"I enjoy batting with Jacques and I know he is safe at the other end," said Boucher. "I think we have played enough Tests between the two of us to know that when a side is under pressure, you sometimes need to counterattack. On that sort of wicket we felt the best way to play it was to try and put the pressure back on them, and chance our arm a bit.

"It came off to certain extent, I would have liked to have carried on but you can't always get what you want. We could have been 200 all out but are 270-odd for 6, and it's even from our perspective."

For Kallis this series is showing eerie comparisons to the 2004-05 campaign in which he scored three hundreds, yet South Africa still lost. The outcome of this series is still far from clear, but it would be galling for Kallis if his personal achievements didn't lead to team success.

"He's scored over 10,000 runs, so you expect him to do it more often than not," Boucher said. "The guys who are in form need to carry the side while others are out of form. He's playing really well at the moment and he's hungry for runs. A hungry Jacques Kallis is always a dangerous Jacques Kallis for the opposition."

Kallis, though, surely wouldn't mind if a few of his team-mates started to feast on the England bowling with a similar appetite.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • paul on January 4, 2010, 23:47 GMT

    As a batsman, Kallis is the consummate technician, all balance and with late control with his hands. Like all the greats he appears to to possess that fraction more (but crucial) time with which to make decisions and play his shots. If there is a more solid, pleasing to the eye, and out of the coaching manual technique then I haven't seen him or the possessor is playing/operating behind closed doors!! Nipuns post of 4/1/10 referred to the accuracy and relevancy of stats and if these are THE defining criteria of modern day greatness then closer analysis of both Test and ODI records will show that his averages in both forms of the game place him -among the men still playing in those formats and at that level among the top five in the all time active list but with recent innings he is probably the best batsman in the world at the moment. Pietersen also raised eyebrows recently when he described Kallis as "the greatest cricketer ever" On current form its hard to disagree with him!!

  • Prince on January 4, 2010, 12:34 GMT

    Yes,Jacques Kallis is truly one of the greatest ever batsman to have played the game.If you take his bowling & fielding into consideration,you wonder why he is not be perhaps the greatest ever !!! Statistics certainly don't lie !!!

  • vijay on January 4, 2010, 11:44 GMT

    As an Indian off course the greatest Batsman is Sachin without a shadow of doubt but if you ask for the greatest All rounder after Sobers we usually name Kapil/ Ian/ Richard and Imran but the best is Jaques and consider his overall attributes. Hats off to him. And to all he does not need to wait to be acknowledged as a Legend, he is there already based on the figures and other stats for the decade that has gone by. What a statesman. My only grouse and since I am not aware is why was he not considered as Captain after Shaun Pollock??? Also his dropping and subsequent reinstatement in the 20-20 squad shows how wrong the selectors were!!!! Cheers to the great.

  • Paul on January 4, 2010, 8:20 GMT

    Ponting was obviously a better batsmen this decade in ODI's and great in tests but I agree that Kallis was simply monumental in tests, second only to Graeme Pollock as SA's greatest batsmen ever. Add to that his bowling ability and of course he is a good fielder too!

  • Rahul on January 4, 2010, 8:02 GMT

    Kallis is the Silent Crusader who's got tons of patience and skill as a cricketer. Yet another century by him to take SA to a decent position. We should agree with what Boucher's saying. Today's another day and Jacques has to carry on and make it big. He is one of the best batsmen in the last 10 yrs and is right up there alongside Ponting, Sachin, Dravid etc.. Good Luck Jacques. Keep going big man.

  • Amit on January 4, 2010, 4:44 GMT

    Kallis is a run-scoring machine. In a tough situation like today, you realise the values of truly class player like Kallis, Dravids and Steve Waughs. Add to that his ability to bowl and ability to keep playing for so long without injuries in Tests and ODI (add to that catching). Has to go down as one of the greatest cricketer of all times.

  • Rahul on January 4, 2010, 4:04 GMT

    It seems that the famous mental fralities of SAF are on full show in the series so far. Sometimes you get the impression all it needs is just minor calamity off the field to derail the well oiled machine. England are a good side with a potent bowling attack but onions and broad are not mcgraths yet and should be treated in the same manner and so should be swann. SAF should realise that on paper they are a much better side and in the first test it was england who survived by the skin of the teeth. The impression one gets is they are already 2-0 down. Body language of ashwell prince was like bus conductor put in charge of orgnising FIFA world cup. SAF should have 11 men who wants to be out in the middle and willing to play and win.

  • balaji on January 4, 2010, 3:36 GMT

    Jacques kallis,Classis player of this decade.Lot of speculations went around him.but he has shown in his batting that he is one among the legends of stoke making.Youngesters has to learn this art from him.Still we can see great enthusiasm in his batting to score huge runs.Hope only man can probably can break sachin's test record.Even though i am an indian supporter,if kallis plays againt india,i love to watch his batting.More geniune and gem of SA.No one can equalize his all round excellence.Most elegant and superb player of all time.Thank you so much Kallis for enterning us these many years in this cricket business.

  • Samir on January 4, 2010, 2:39 GMT

    Most fans if asked to come up with the best players of the past 20 years would consider Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Warne, Murali......yet by any objective measure Kallis may well be the best overall cricketer to have played the game since Sobers.

  • Martin on January 3, 2010, 20:16 GMT

    This day showed the true value of Kallis - too often the only one who steps up and helps SA avoid disaster. He may not have the flamboyance of Sehwag or Lara but he is by far the best player in the side since re-admission. Perhaps we have to wait 'till he retires before he will be universally acknowledged as a modern legend. Cheers to Kallis and hopefully to many more tons!

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