Kallis’ farewell ton puts Proteas in lead

Kallis’ farewell ton puts Proteas in lead

acques Kallis walked out with that measured stride. And, just like it has often happened over his 18-year-old international career, South Africa was delicately placed. Hashim Amla had departed and India sensed a breach.

It was a moment, though, to celebrate one of cricket’s biggest icons. In the balcony outside the press-box, Rahul Dravid clapped effusively. One great acknowledged another while Kallis, who is playing his last Test, walked through a guard-of-honour that the Indians graciously offered.

He shook M.S. Dhoni’s hand but once he took guard, the emotion, the fuss and all the talk about his retirement was relegated to the background. Kallis just watched the ball, one by one, defending stoutly, sporadically launching a few over long-off or through cover.

But, mostly, he stayed and did his utmost to help South Africa remain stable in its first innings against India in the second Test at the Kingsmead Stadium here on Saturday.

When rain drew in an early close to the third day’s play, Kallis was still around, unbeaten on 78 with South Africa on 299 for five, just 35 runs away from India’s 334.

South Africa’s reply was largely helmed by the 127-run fourth-wicket partnership that Kallis shared with A.B. de Villiers (74).

The alliance gained momentum after lunch with Kallis unleashing his trademark punch past cover-point against Zaheer Khan and de Villiers punctured the four-man off-side cordon against Mohammad Shami.

However, Kallis mostly played the waiting game while de Villiers was the enforcer, even doing the reverse-sweep against spin.

On a day when Kallis had to be there, de Villiers was a scrambling-tumbling mess as he commenced a single late and just about escaped being run-out. Zaheer’s throw missed the stumps and obviously de Villiers could not afford to turn his back to a charging Kallis and become the subject of wrath across South Africa!

That was the lone false note in their partnership before Ravindra Jadeja nailed de Villiers. The ball turned just enough to take the edge.

Kallis though hung in as usual and found a nimble partner in J.P. Duminy before the latter too fell to Jadeja.

The left-arm spinner (four for 87) maintained an impeccable line close to the off-stump, gained appreciable turn and bounce and kept the batsmen honest.

Earlier, under a bright sun, South Africa’s openers Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen (62) extended their partnership to 103.

Jadeja, who had briefly troubled Smith on the previous day, soon had his man.

The Proteas’ captain lofted the left-arm spinner but miscued it and Shikhar Dhawan took a fine catch while on the run at mid-wicket.

Amla, who has been plagued by disturbed-stumps this series, found no relief. Yet again he was castled with Shami’s delivery straightening on hitting the seam.

Jadeja then drew forward a groping Petersen, who was caught at first slip with a diving M. Vijay keeping his eye on the ball.

South Africa had lost three wickets for 10 runs in just 32 deliveries, and the salvage-act was left to Kallis and the man, who will probably succeed him at number four — de Villiers.

Kallis, was steady and composed before he lofted Jadeja twice for fours.

“He has been talking a bit more in the change-room, may be he wants to enjoy his last days with the Test team,” Dale Steyn had said on Friday, and Kallis enjoyed his batting the way he usually does — guarded but equally alert to scoring opportunities.

Along with de Villiers, Kallis guided South Africa to 181 for three at lunch.

After that, the host made steady progress before Jadeja’s wickets placed the game in the balance under fading light though South Africa is marginally ahead.