South Africa v India, 2nd Test, Durban, 3rd day December 28, 2013

Kallis thrives in his bubble


Kallis played the almost perfect innings - Petersen

Beyond the guard of honour, the handshakes, the hashtags and the heavy hearts, there was a Test to win. The most important person knew that. Jacques Kallis, who all the above gestures were for, blocked out the occasion and batted in his bubble. The same one many thought he had left when he announced his decision to retire from Test cricket. Kallis showed them he hadn't, because there was a job to be done.

He constructed an innings that Alviro Petersen described as being the antithesis of someone on the verge of the end. "You wouldn't say he was playing in his last Test match," Petersen said. In fact, because of its cautiousness, this knock was befitting of someone at the start of his career.

At first, the wariness was out of necessity. South Africa had lost Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla within six overs of each other, Ravindra Jadeja had found turn and India's seamers were searching for reverse swing. "Even before he faced a ball, there was a wicket," Petersen remembered. He was the man out, which meant Kallis was one of two new batsmen and, like he has often had to do, needed to provide South Africa with backbone.

With that responsibility, Kallis took 16 deliveries to score his first run. In that time, AB de Villiers got off the mark and Kallis got hit on the hand by Zaheer Khan. It wasn't a body blow like the one Dale Steyn gave Ajinkya Rahane on the second day. Neither was it a delivery that exposed Kallis' reactions, like the one he bowled to Ricky Ponting in Adelaide last year, which literally floored the Australian batsman.

Ponting had said he was "embarrassed" by that ball, so much so it confirmed in his mind that his time was up. Something similar could easily have happened to Kallis, which would have vindicated and even explained the reason for his retirement. There would have been proof to back up the whispering, a result of the number of times he has been lbw playing across the line recently, that his technique was waning. Kallis seemed to be consciously guarding against that. He concentrated on solid defence, for the team and himself.

Zaheer got the ball after the blow to the hand to bounce more but Kallis was prepared. He pushed the delivery behind point for his first run. Four overs later he had added only one more, when he changed tack. He charged Jadeja and lofted over mid-off for four, twice. The Kallis who could entertain had arrived.

De Villiers, as expected, played the more adventurous innings but Kallis grew in confidence too. He had not passed 40 in seven innings before this, stretching back to February, but as he spent time in the middle he brought out the sweep and the cut.

By lunch, de Villiers had overtaken Kallis and after the break Kallis needed to resettle again. He outside edged Mohammad Shami but with no slip in place, he was safe. It was only when the afternoon wore on that Kallis brought out the drive he has built his reputation on. He treated the crowd of 6900 to a couple against Zaheer, one off the back foot and one off the front, to enter the 40s.

For the next 46 deliveries, Kinsgmead waited as Kallis retreated further. In that time, de Villiers put in a dive that might have given him a painful grass burn to avoid being run-out, and was later dismissed. After what seemed an age, Kallis punched Jadeja through point and a misfield brought him his half-century.

There was a roar of appreciation, enthusiastic applause and for a moment, Kallis allowed himself to enjoy it. He removed his helmet and whirled around to acknowledge the crowd, which included his sister, and his smile spoke of satisfaction and relief. "With all the pressure of the last Test, he stood tall," Petersen said.

After that, Kallis stood firm once more, firmer than before. With India getting a fair amount of turn with the old ball, he focused on defence, and South Africa's run rate slowed dramatically after tea. In the 15.5 overs before bad light and drizzle stopped play, they scored only 32. Although the pitch may not have facilitated a run-rate of four an over, like South Africa had on day two, such a go-slow may not have been needed for survival.

Everybody noticed Kallis' introverted approach, including Mark Boucher who thought he looked "more focused than before." With Kallis in his zone, comparisons were drawn between this innings and his maiden Test century at the MCG 16 years ago.

It speaks of the consistency of the man that he can go out in a way that is eerily similar to the manner he came in. But there is a difference between what was needed in Melbourne in 1997 and Durban today. Then, there was a Test to be saved. Now, there is a series to be won.

Some are of the opinion that Kallis slowing down could have hurt South Africa's chances of winning. Others believe he has given them the platform to push for a result. Petersen believes Kallis played "the perfect innings for the situation we were in," but that his job was not done.

"If Jacques thought he could just cruise through his last Test match, he was wrong," Petersen joked. "We are really going to need him tomorrow."

It is the last time South Africa will be able to say that and know Kallis will be able to respond. That is still sinking in. "We haven't really thought about this Test team without Jacques Kallis. But lucky, it's not quite here for us yet," Petersen said. "We've got two more days to focus on." The most important person knows that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 30, 2013, 1:10 GMT

    Kallis, statistically, was a freak and a deserving legend. But I don't think "The Kallis who could entertain" ever "arrived" in the 16 year International cricket career!

    Don't get me wrong but there were hardly more than a thousand people at the stadium (in South Africa) when the best all-round cricketer (statistically!!) scored his last century in his farewell match. He was boring, dull, colourless, unexciting, monotonous and yet pretty effective (as his stats show).

  • N. on December 29, 2013, 10:06 GMT

    Looks to me that the Saffers are playing to ensure they don't lose this match before they worry about trying to win it.... Not surprising because that has always appeared to be there MO... They should have gone for the win in that first Test after getting so close, only to take the safety first option and shut up shop within sight of the victory... Must be frustrating for their supporters. I know, as an Aussie that we love that our team is always pushing for a win

  • Brenton on December 29, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    Kallis is an exceptional player. He took nearly 300 test wickets too. My only criticism of his game was he was one-paced when he batted, regardless of the game situation he batted at the same slow pace. He wouldn't take bowlers on, he wouldn't take charge.

    It's this way he scored his runs that means he will never be regarded as great as Tendulkar, Viv, Lara or Ponting. But let's not let that detract from what was an extraordinary all-round cricketer. Kallis had enormous concentration and focus.

  • John on December 29, 2013, 5:54 GMT

    Jacques will always be remembered as a great player and his retirement is sad, but the timing of the ending of his career is really his own fault. He made himself scarce in terms of selection and when he did play, his form was'nt exactly impressive. His recent stats haven't been pretty. I wish we could really know what was going on in Jacques head, because he could have continued if he really, really wanted to.

  • Sam` on December 29, 2013, 4:54 GMT

    Some people just don't get cricket.

    Kallis' job is not to slam quick runs at the drop of a hat, never has been. Amla, Smith, Peterson and ABDV all score quickly. Hayden, Ponting, Gilchrist all bashed it when Steve Waugh was playing, Bell, Pietersen and Prior have always scored quickly with Alistair Cook in their side, Dravid had Sachin, Sehwag, Ganguly and Laxman around him. Players have roles. Kallis came in with his team having lost 3-10, after India lost their last 9 for 130 the day before. The pitch is clearly not great for batting on. His side has not lost a series in four years, they have lost two tests in three years - how irresponsible would it be if he got out trying to 'up the run rate' just to satisfy those who can't pay attention for two overs without seeing a boundary?

    He is batting his team into a position where they can build a lead of 150-200, and possibly roll India. Seriously when will people learn the difference between selfishness and intelligence.

  • Dummy on December 29, 2013, 4:42 GMT

    World of cricket is going to lose one more legend in test cricket and may be in ODIs next year. Test cricket will deprived from a classy cricketer.

  • srikanthan on December 29, 2013, 4:16 GMT

    Kallis batted really well yesterday but based on this one can't come to the conclusion that he could have continued for a few more years. It has been quite clear that his reactions have got slower and he would struggle against a faster attack. Being a champion, he would have known it better than us. Tendulkar played atleast 8 test matches more than what he should have, it is good that Kallis is stopping short of that. Kallis may still be able to score against better attacks but would be nowhere near his past consistency.But if you ask whether he could have continued as an all rounder, he could have but a champion like him whose standards are very high would have preferred to go out rather than be amongst lesser mortals.

  • Dummy4 on December 29, 2013, 3:47 GMT

    Kaliis can easily play atleast 4 more years for test cricket and break tendulkar Runs record.

  • uttam on December 29, 2013, 3:27 GMT

    One aspect of his incompleteness as a cricketer is not captaining his country and I don't think it was in his hand tough.It's a huge surprise as well as disappointment to me.

  • Rob on December 29, 2013, 3:01 GMT

    King Kallis - reconsider please and retire from tests at your home ground Newlands after again beating the Aussies.

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