Kallis savours 'special' landmark at home
Jacques Kallis' first double-hundred was celebrated with a golf swing, a salute to the heavens and a massive sigh of relief. It had taken him 143 Tests to reach the landmark and end speculation that he was unable to take the step into triple-figures that begin with a 2. Just 13 innings later, he achieved what had once eluded him for a decade and a half, again. This time, Kallis celebrated with a leap and swipe of the bat, a laugh and a swagger.
To get a double-century once was proving a point. To get it twice was simply a cause for celebration. "They are both special," Kallis said. "But the special part is probably getting it at Newlands, especially with the series being 1-1. It's nice to be one of those guys who puts in a big performance."
Prior to the deciding Test, Graeme Smith described Kallis as "the most stubborn man in the world." Smith said that although the team as a whole was hurting from the Durban defeat, Kallis was probably stung the hardest because of his poor showings with the bat in the summer so far. In four innings against Australia he scored 58 and in the previous two against Sri Lanka managed only 31 in three innings, including the first pair of his career.
Kallis said the bad press didn't bother him, especially because he "doesn't really read newspapers." Suggestions in the local press have been that he needs more careful management but Kallis swatted that away with disdain. "You don't become a bad player overnight," he said. "It's crazy to see stuff like that getting written, that you're old and you can't do this or that, come on, seriously."
His problems against the short ball were of particular concern and Sri Lanka persisted in peppering him with them. He said he wasn't too taken aback by their tactics. "That's obviously the way they felt they could get me out early," he said. "Maybe they read a few newspapers." Sri Lanka could have had Kallis out for one, when he pulled Dhammika Prasad to fine leg and Chanaka Welegedara did not pick the ball up in time to take the catch.
Kallis, like Sangakkara before him, made full use of his opportunity and went on to play one of his greatest innings on a batsman-friendly pitch. "If you get in, go big," he said. "It's nice to get in and cash in on a good deck."
Kallis did more than just cash in, as he landed in a sea full of coins, bringing up 200 in 280 balls. Although the overall team run-rate was high, Kallis said he has made a conscious effort in the last few years to be more aggressive. "I've scored a lot quicker in Test cricket and I've worked on a lot of things to make that happen," he said "I've been a little bit more positive over the last four years." He was also assisted by the rest of his line-up, which he feels is now at its most solid. "We complement each other pretty well," he said.
The best pairing of the day was between Kallis and de Villiers, who scored 193 runs between them. While Kallis grafted, de Villiers soared. "He is a special player," Kallis said. "The best seat in the house is at the non-strikers end watching him bat. He certainly is going to be one of the greats of the game and can take the game away from the opposition."
South Africa's massive first-innings lead has likely swung the pendulum their way and Kallis said they are confident that they have enough to close out the series. "There's no reason why we can't pick up 20 wickets," Kallis said. "There is some uneven bounce and a couple of balls did turn today. Immi [Imran Tahir] has a lot of overs left for him in the next couple of days. Fortunately we've batted at a good rate, so we've given ourselves some extra time to try and bowl them out twice."
The declaration came 40 minutes before tea, which was South Africa's way of dangling a bit of carrot at Sri Lanka. "We felt we had to go the positive way and to win the game that was the best thing to do," Kallis said. "If you go further, the only real hope you have of winning the game is to make them follow-on."
Sri Lanka may yet have to follow-on but even if they avoid it, Kallis feels South Africa have enough in them to force a series win at home (if achieved, it will be their first series win at home since 2008). "We realised we let ourselves down in Durban and there is no way that stuff like that should happen," he said.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent