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Verdict

Kallis's understudy fills the breach

Brett Lee struck the crucial blow of Jacques Kallis as Australia's bowlers continued to dominate the first day of the third Test at Johannesburg. At tea South Africa were 140 for 4

Telford Vice
31-Mar-2006


Ashwell Prince batted for three hours for his undefeated 79 © Getty Images
It was a day made for batsmen who are not easily bored, who are able to focus on a single snowflake in a blizzard, batsmen who care not if philistines liken their labours to paint drying, or call them stodgy, or worse.
In other words, it was a day for Jacques Kallis. He was there, of course, but only for two hours. And that wasn't enough for this fragile South African team to keep the Australian wolves at bay on a pitch that egged on the seamers.
But, on this chilly, unyielding day, another batsman who fitted the criteria came our way and stayed a while longer. He was Ashwell Prince, in some senses a left-handed Kallis, and he batted for three hours for his undefeated 79. Most importantly, he was there when bad light ended play 11 overs early with South Africa on 238 for 6.
Early in his career Prince seemed bent on slapping every ball he faced to the fence. Then he entered a barren period in which he almost refused to play a stroke. Happily for South Africa, he has found the balance and added a rudder of steeliness to the mix. The result is a Test batsman worthy of the job description.
To be fair to Kallis, he did have other things to think about. Like how high to flick the coin at the toss. Graeme Smith's finger trouble - the exact nature of his ailment is a slew of medical jabberwocky - has denied South Africa their captain for this match. Kallis is the designated vice-captain and has therefore been installed as captain. But the nation is holding its breath for the moment when Australia begin their reply.


Jacques Kallis couldn't survive his first day of Test captaincy, thanks to a jaffa from Brett Lee © Getty Images
Not only is Kallis prone to slipping into an impregnable bubble when it suits him, he also last thought about setting a field when he captained the Wynberg Boys High XI in 1993. Kallis was given an hour to settle into the captain's chair. Then, after AB de Villiers drove a catch to cover off Stuart Clark and Herschelle Gibbs left a delivery from Michael Kasprowicz and was bowled for the eighth time in 11 innings, he had to go out and bat.
Dippenaar, who filled Smith's vacancy, delivered his umpteenth pretty thirty. This time he scored 32 before playing a millionaire's drive to Clark and being caught behind. He looked good while he lasted, but the point is he didn't last. However, Dippenaar did help Kallis steady the innings with a stand that took South Africa into the second session.
Then Brett Lee caused alarm with an inswinger that would have done many fine players. It did Kallis, bowling him through the gate for 37. That left Prince and Jacques Rudolph to rebuild the innings, and they were doing a gritty job of it when Rudolph's innings was controversially snuffed out. He edged Warne to slip, where Matthew Hayden dived forward dramatically, scooped the ball and claimed the catch.
Did the ball bounce first? Television replays suggested it did, but like George W Bush they cannot be trusted. Steve Bucknor and Tony Hill conferred. But even as they did so Rudolph asked the question, Hayden nodded, and off the South African trudged.
Mark Boucher continued the good work with Prince. Then came the 10th ball before the enforced close, which hit Boucher well down the track and would have cleared the stumps. Bucknor didn't think so, and gave him out.
By then the evening chill was rattling the bones of those who had stayed to watch the embers of the day's play. They didn't deserve to have to endure the manner in which Rudolph and Boucher were dismissed. But, after everything, they had Prince. And they will have him still on the second day. There's something to ease them to sleep.

Telford Vice works for the MWP Media agency in South Africa