Steely Kallis weathers the storm
There are many traditional things to enjoy in Cape Town around New Year. There's the world renowned wine, the mountain and the meeting of the two oceans. There's also the minstrels, who march through the city centre, and celebrate the coming of another year on every 2nd of January in a carnival that has been part of life here since the days of the Malay slaves. If you were at Newlands Cricket Stadium, there was another classic on display: Vintage Kallis.
It was the Kallis who, if he had lived in a medieval age, would have been Lancelot, winning battles for his King on command. It's the Kallis who relishes riding to the rescue, who is in no rush to do so and who goes on to do it with such grace and calm that it appears to happen as matter of instinct. It's the Kallis who, at the tender age of 22, showed the mental strength to hold Shane Warne at bay when he was playing in his just his seventh Test.
The situation may not have been as dire this time, and Kallis has played 138 more Tests, but the mind is still as fresh, as supple and as clearly rooted as it was then. Kallis walked to the crease with the score on 34 for 2, but it wasn't the score itself that would have worried him, it was the way South Africa got there. They were rattled. That much was evident when Graeme Smith, usually the picture of confidence, was plucked by his nemesis Zaheer Khan. Alviro Petersen was gone shortly after playing one of the shots he is best at, a drive, but like his previous three innings, he made a start and could not continue.
Cloud was lowering itself like a veil over the field, moisture was in the air, the wicket was green and the Indian bowlers had smelt blood. It was a tad more precarious a situation than one Kallis faced when he walked out to bat at 46 for 2 in the first innings in Durban and a lot more than when he arrived at 82 or 2 in the second. Batting was also tough then but Kallis was not able to rescue the team on either occasion.
In a stroke of misfortune, he was run out at the non-strikers end in the first innings and got out trying to fend a ball that rose on him in the second. In both instances, there wasn't too much he could do to avoid a dismissal. It was a massive anti-climax after registering his maiden double-hundred in Centurion and although there is never pressure on Kallis to perform for his place, there was pressure on him to perform for the team.
He brought stability to an innings that could have fallen apart because of the bowler-friendly conditions. He watched while Hashim Amla swung momentum in South Africa's favour with a pacy 59 off 80 balls. While Amla was feeding off some of the hit-me deliveries that were being bowled at him, Kallis was holding up his end, taking the odd single here and there, but mostly, leaving the ball well. It wasn't his shot making that has defined this innings so far, it was how well he left. Amla admitted to being in awe. "He showed his class today on a testing wicket. There were always going to be plays and misses but his technique was extremely sound. I was marvelling at it. His temperament is superb so he kept the innings together," Amla said.
Kallis shared three half-century partnerships, one of which will resume Monday morning. In his 321 minutes at the crease, he had only two clear-cut moments of anxiety. They both came in one over from Sreesanth. First, Kallis got an edge that went past second slip and would not have carried anyway but it must have unnerved him. Four balls later there was an lbw appeal that Hawkeye replays showed would have found him out.
After that, he was a wall. He combined well with Ashwell Prince later in the day, taking few risks but adding runs at a reasonable pace. If South Africa are to post a strong total, what Kallis does on day two will be crucial to their efforts. "Jacques's been the key to our team for the last 15 years," Amla said, an indication of how important he is in the context of the team as a whole.
Luckily for South Africa, Kallis is playing on a ground he adores and that adores him back. He scored two centuries in two Tests at Newlands prior to this match. Scoring back-to-back hundreds at his home ground is becoming something of a tradition for Kallis. He did in 1999 and 2000 and again in 2004 and 2005. He has not yet scored three, successive centuries in Cape Town, but on 81 not out, he looks well set to add a little twist to the tale of his great knocks at Newlands.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent