He may not enjoy the iconic status that an Andrew Flintoff does, but no one in these parts doubts the qualities that Jacques Kallis brings to this South African side. His 119 spanned 160 balls, and was the slowest ever made by a South African in ODIs, but it was 28 more than India's batting line-up made on a pitch that was nowhere near as menacing as Kingsmead can be at times.
Kallis assessed the conditions beautifully, playing some magnificent drives early in his innings before settling down to shepherd the middle and lower order right to the end. "It was one of those wickets where there was a lot of bounce," he said, soon after picking up the Man-of-the-match award. "It wasn't a free-scoring wicket. It just needed someone to bat through the innings, and for others to bat around him. There was a period in the middle when we could have picked it up a little bit more but my experience told me to just hang in there. I realised that 250 was a very good score."
India had done well to reduce South Africa to 63 for 3, but Kallis and AB de Villiers regained the initiative with a steady 87-run partnership that laid the platform for a solid total. "They all bowled well on a wicket that was more bowler-friendly than some we've played on," said Kallis. "As a unit, they bowled pretty well. But maybe they were one bowler short. They made it difficult for us to score, especially in the middle period."
Graeme Smith, who departed early, leg before to Zaheer Khan, was delighted with the result, saying that he was fairly confident once the runs had been put on the board. "We knew the wicket would bounce. We were happy with 250. At times, we were a bit rusty and on another day, we could have got 270. Jacques played superbly, and there were some good knocks around him."
India's response saw them collapse from a relatively healthy 62 for 2 to 91 all out, with the exits of Dravid and Tendulkar heralding a depressing collapse. "They didn't start that badly," said Smith. "We had them two down early on, but they were pretty solid up to a point. I thought Andre Nel's spell was superb. He hit really great areas at pace and bowled with a lot of aggression. We knew that if we could get them three or four down, we could get stuck into the middle order."
The middle order subsided in embarrassing fashion, and Smith admitted that inexperience may have played a part. "They've got experience at the top of the order with Tendulkar and Dravid," he said. "Kaif has been around for a long time. Maybe in the middle order, they're a little bit inexperienced. This is Dhoni's first tour out of the subcontinent, apart from the Caribbean. For him, it's going to be a big challenge in these conditions. We just bowled really well tonight, and our energy in the field was great."
He was adamant though that South Africa wouldn't be looking at India as a two-batsman team, even though the onus is clearly on Tendulkar and Dravid to deliver big runs. "In any team, you have a couple of guys who've been around a long time and have records behind them," he said. "The young guys have to take the responsibility and perform. We concentrate against every batter. Obviously, the guys with records behind them are going to be more crucial wickets."
Though Makhaya Ntini went wicketless and Charl Langeveldt went for a few, Smith was delighted with the collective effort in the field. When asked how this fast-bowling quintet shaped up against their predecessors, he said: "I wouldn't like to compare them to the past. I think this is a new era and these guys are setting their own standards. We're proud of the past, but this team wants to have its own style and create our own records."
South Africa experienced a similar low recently, when they were thrashed by New Zealand on a pitch of questionable quality during the Champions Trophy, and Smith, who chuckled when asked what advice he would give the Indians, said that he had been delighted at the manner in which they bounced back from that. "For us, it was about stepping up our work-rate at training and asking the guys to raise their levels," he said. "I know what we're capable of. The guys have proven that to me and everyone else in one-day cricket over the last two years. I don't know how Rahul will work with the Indian team. I don't know their dynamics."
With both teams still feeling their way into a pivotal season that climaxes with the World Cup, Smith was clearly jubilant about the first steps taken on home turf. "I think we were very good as a unit," he said. "The batting was rusty in some areas. Game time is needed. We feel like we've gone from net to net to net. We need time in the middle. As a team, we're working well together and we're happy. We've moved away from the fear of failure."
It's a fear that will be uppermost in many Indian minds after a lamentable defeat.