South Africa v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 1st day January 3, 2012

Kallis feasts on the green grass of home

Sri Lanka laid out a royal feast of bad bowling on day one at Cape Town. Jacques Kallis and Alviro Petersen tucked in and chalked up important runs.

If two men are hungry, they can only eat if food is plentiful. Luckily for Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis, Sri Lanka brought everything from the placemats to dessert and laid out a royal feast.

Petersen admitted that South Africa were "surprised" that Sri Lanka asked them to bat, on a pitch that looked "quite dry". At first, they may have suspected a poisoned apple but no such dangerous food emerged. All that lay before them was a land of milk and honey: batting paradise with the chance for the two at the crease to prove their differing, but equally important, points.

Petersen's need to make a statement is obvious. He has just been recalled to the national team after being dropped, for no real doing of his own, but the hard-to-ignore form of another - Jacques Rudolph. If there was any glaring fault in Petersen's previous nine Tests it would be that he failed to notch up milestones often enough. His century on his debut Test was memorable but fifties against West Indies and Pakistan were achieved against forgettable, below-par opposition or in equally forgettable batting-friendly circumstances.

His last series, against India, was characterised by difficult opening partnerships, on both sides, as the hosts prepared seamer-friendly pitches as part of a ploy against the sub-continental side. He was dropped, despite managing 77 in the first Test, because Rudolph was the popular choice, having made a stirring comeback to South African cricket.

Kallis had three forgettable innings and would have had a fourth if Chanaka Welegedera had caught the pull he played. He showed Sri Lanka what happens when you give one of the world's best players a second chance.

Petersen always knew that if he continued grinding away at the domestic scene, the pendulum would have to swing back in his favour. "I always believed I had the chance to get back and I had a few good performances at domestic level," he said. "I always believed I could do it. It all depended on me getting runs on the board." Since being dropped, he has scored three first-class hundreds, showing his patience, maturity and composure and forcing his way back into the national team.

Even that was not enough for vindication. Like Ashwell Prince, who scored a century in the opening position in 2009, Petersen had to be able to show that he was good enough, not just anywhere but in an international match. He realised the value of a big score and adopted the same attitude as he has had in domestic matches this season to get there: the wait, watch and then stealthily attack. "A hundred is a big milestone and it was quite satisfying to get to that," he said. "In other games, I got to 30 and 40 and I was a bit disappointed. For me, it's about pushing the bar and would have liked to have scored more."

It was an innings that could be remembered as being a turning point in Petersen's career because it has likely bought him time and flights to New Zealand and England next year. South Africa's opening pair has long been a conundrum but Petersen appears to have solved that, with the help of the opportunities he was fed by the Sri Lankan bowlers.

Kallis is on the opposite end of the spectrum. After 150 Test matches, some may think Kallis has nothing left to achieve. They would be wrong. Before today, he had not scored a century against Sri Lanka, the only Test playing nation he had not managed three figures against. Perhaps more fresh in his mind was the pair he suffered last week at Kingsmead, something that was foreign to Kallis, who had gone 16 years in international cricket without ever enduring a duck in both innings.

Combine those two factors with Kallis' age and the need for him to come good emerges. He is now 36 years-old - not yet old enough to be hard of hearing - so would have picked up the whispers in the wind that are suggesting he is getting on and that team management should start considering his future. His recent vulnerability against the short ball, particularly against Patrick Cummins, highlighted those very things Kallis would have wanted to remain in the dark: signs of age.

He had three forgettable innings against Sri Lanka and would have had a fourth, if Chanaka Welegedera had caught his top-edged pull. At that stage, Kallis was on just one. But, like Kumar Sangakkara in the last match, he showed Sri Lanka what happens when you give one of the world's best players a second chance and went on to record a magnificent 150, in perfect symbolism with his 150th match.

As the run machine rolled on, Sri Lanka continued to pepper Kallis with short balls. "We were surprised at the lines and lengths bowled," said Petersen. By then, Kallis had adjusted to keeping the pull down and went on to record one of his classiest knocks. In the process, Kallis owns Newlands the way Mahela Jayawardene does the SSC in Colombo and Graham Gooch did Lord's. He passed 2,000 runs on his home ground, a sign that the grass really is greener for some at Newlands.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 5, 2012, 4:51 GMT

    @harmony111 - I find it insulting that you would bulk me with people of "my ilk" (whatever that means). I have responded to the points you made and wouldn't dare to pigeonhole you into a category of my making. In comments I have made elsewhere, I have defended the point that home series pitches should be representative of the general nature of the country's pitches. Having a deliberatley under- or overprepared pitch is shameful but having a pitch that takes turn in the sub continent or a bouncy pitch in SA is expected and reasonable. I also have not made any comments about Indian players because these articles are not about Indian cricket. I won't engage you on those points.

  • Harmon on January 4, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    @Bruce Robinson:-

    Alright. So it is proven by your own point that Kallis was unable to bat even on a less than usual fast N bouncy Durban wicket. Hmmm. Had any Indian failed like that, many people would have been using the cliche. Had any Indian scored a double like JK did today, many people would have been again using some other cliche. Next, I am happy to see you mentioning the resident nature of pitches in SA. May I ask you (OK, not exactly you but the likes of you) to also use the same thinking for the wickets in India. Just like the wickets in SA have have residual bounce and can't be changed match by match or series by series or even year by year; may be the Indian wickets too are like that !! So I hope the noise about Indian wickets being "Tailor Made" will not come at least from you and some of your ilk. I hope so.

  • Dave on January 4, 2012, 16:09 GMT

    It would be unfair to say that Kallis is a better batsman than the likes of Tendulkar, Ponting, Dravid etc. In my opinion, they are all fantastic batsmen in their own right and have achieved so much in their long and distinguished careers. There is very little to choose between them. What sets Kallis apart from the rest is that he is also one of the most accomplished allrounders the world has ever seen. Granted, he is probably not as exciting to watch as Tendulkar, but that doesn't make him any less of a player.

  • Aidan on January 4, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    Thank goodness SL showed some fight again - But kudos to Kallis - Aussie - who rates SA as a powerful team; they went out to make a statement following their loss and showed they are a giant or at least capable of it.

  • Harmon on January 4, 2012, 15:52 GMT

    @Ryan Stephen:-

    No doubt you feel you have made a good point, right? Now tell me, if it is meaningless to combine Sachin's ODI centuries to his Test Centuries to get 99 then how meaningful is it for you to combine what Kallis does with the ball and with the bat? In any case, it makes him a better all-rounder than any of them (the best actually) but neither a better bowler than Zahir nor a better batsman than Sachin. In such analysis, once can use a variety of tilting factors to change balance. Please don't think I don't like Kallis - I love him. But I am merely using the same set of arguments many people use to discount the records of some Indian cricketers. Most interesting is to see people shifting the goalposts each time their own logic comes back to make their hero look a bit poorer. To even things here, I do admit that JK has a very very strong case but he loses out primarily for his lack of scoring rate like RD. Please consider only JK's overall strike rate.

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 15:46 GMT

    SA not taken this as gentleman cricket,They scared and now made this pitch as batting track... tooo bad...... even though if SA wins this game,this game should considered as cheat.... Dilshan fallen in the trap which

  • vinay on January 4, 2012, 14:07 GMT

    Yup without a doubt Kallis is the greatest cricketer EVER (from a SRT fan).

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 11:44 GMT

    Cricketers such as Kallis make great statements, (of intent), contributions, and get runs/wickets at vital times.After an ignominious 'pair' in Durban and even tho' he has like his technique a flawless temperament he would have felt under some pressure going into that innings but he always seems to produce when it matters most and he does it consistently as his test match batting average - only Trott has a marginally better one of any batsman currently playing international (test match) cricket - has remained well over fifty and virtually unchanged for over 10 years!!... not even SRT or Punter can match that? I've watched a lot of his knocks over the years and despite SLs 'pop gun' attack - you've still got to play your shots to get your runs - nothing IMHO will make me change my mind that he is quite simply the best white batsman I've ever seen in or across ANY era(s) & statistically he is a true GREAT of the game

  • Dru on January 4, 2012, 9:37 GMT

    You cant keep a class act down for too long and this is what differentiates Kallis from others like say Ponting and Jayawardena. Sure Kallis has a few poor tests but that's it - a few poor tests as opposed to a couple of years. Sure the SL attack is poor as they come but this is still a pressure test for SA and if they didnt bat well yesterday the pressure would have been right on SA and Kallis delivers. It was amusing to listen to the whispers about Kallis after his pair- the guy is a legend and legends just dont fail for too long. I must say Rudolph is probably screaming at not getting to open on this wicket - instead he got the toughest wickets of the summer and now may not bat and may even miss the next tour. Alviro deserves his shot and as luck would have it, probably got the best wicket of the summer. Funny how things work out.

  • Dummy4 on January 4, 2012, 8:02 GMT

    @Harmony111: Unfortunately you're in a check mate position with your argument their bro, if SA pitches are favouring the batsmen, then Kallis is a better bowler than Zaheer Khan, on the other hand, if SA pitches favour the bowler, then Kallis, with a higher average than Tendulkar, is well, I dare not say it

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