Cape Town - There are not many superlatives left to describe the batting of Jacques Kallis who was praised by players from both sides after fighting through the pain barrier to score his second century of the match and place South Africa back in the driving seat on day four of the third and final Test against India at Newlands on Wednesday.
“After Sachin Tendulkar, he (Kallis) is the greatest player in the world,” Indian spin bowler Harbhajan Singh said of the veteran all-rounder.
“I've not seen many people bat the way he did in difficult conditions. He has the technique to play in all conditions and he is a great batsman."
With the series level at 1-1, India were left with the near-impossible target of 342 to score on a deteriorating wicket on the last day after South Africa were dismissed for 341 at stumps.
Kallis, unbeaten on 109, suffered a contusion to the rib area and a side strain on the opening day of the Test, and had to receive treatment from the physio before lunch after he arched back too quickly to avoid a ball from Harbhajan.
He obviously exacerbated the injury and, at one point, was lying on the deck in agony, but braved it out to lunch.
Whatever treatment he received at the break seemed to work wonders as he showed no further signs of pain after lunch and went on to become South Africa's highest run-scorer in a three-Test series with 498 (201 not out, 10, 17, 161 and 109 not out).
Kallis also surpassed Ricky Ponting's 39 Test centuries after drawing equal in the first innings, and now stands alone on 40 - second only to Sachin Tendulkar's 51.
While four other South Africans have scored a century in both innings of a Test (Hashim Amla, Gary Kirsten, Alan Melville and Bruce Mitchell), Kallis is the only one to have done it twice, his first time being against Pakistan in Karachi in 2007.
After India were undoubtedly on top at the lunch break, the turning point for South Africa was Kallis' seventh-wicket stand of 103 with Mark Boucher.
Boucher will hope to have silenced his critics with his 55 off 82 balls and his dismissal, lbw to a ball which kept very low from Tendulkar, was a sign that the pitch would be very difficult for the Indian batsmen on day five.
“We were playing under a lot of pressure but I know Jacques' game and he knows mine so it went nicely for us,” Boucher said.
“I don't think anyone understands the pain he (Kallis) is in right now and it just goes to show the character of the guy.
“In my eyes, we have one of the greatest cricketers that ever lived in our own country and it's time more people realised it."
South Africa's team manager, Mohammed Moosajee, said Kallis, who was again not expected to bowl or field in India's second innings, would have a scan to measure the extent of the injury after the match.
"It is an exacerbating injury but he was willing to put his body on the line for the team," Moosajee said.
India must have been left wondering how, after dominating with their bowling at the start of South Africa's second innings, they found themselves facing such a hefty target for the win, which has never been achieved at Newlands before.
The highest fourth-innings total for victory at Newlands was Australia's 334/6 to beat South Africa in 2002, and no other team has successfully chased more than 300 in the fourth innings at Newlands.
Unnoticed amid the Kallis-mania was Harhajan's seven-wicket haul. He took two quick wickets before stumps on day three and carried on where he left off at the start of the morning session on Wednesday.
His first victim of the day was Alviro Petersen (22), trapped lbw to a ball which landed well outside the off stump but turned back sharply.
Amla (two), attempting to sweep Harbhajan, went down on one knee but missed the shot. The ball bounced off his pad, onto his glove and then rolled on the ground to hit the stumps.
Zaheer Khan roared with delight when he took his only wicket of the innings. AB de Villiers (13) tried to leave too late and the ball glanced the bottom of the bat and crashed onto his stumps.
Ashwell Prince (22) smashed a ball from Ishant Sharma straight into the hands of Sree Sreesanth at point and then it was left to Harbhajan to clean up the tail.
The spinner finished with figures of 7/120 but the day was dominated by Jacques Kallis' monumental innings in the circumstances.
"I'm happy I got wickets but not happy Kallis got his century," said Harbhajan.
"At one stage, we had them at 130/6 but we didn't bowl well and should have done better.
"I have not seen many people bat better than Kallis did today. Hats off to him, he batted really well."
Harbhajan was still hopeful India would bat well and reach their target to secure a maiden Test series victory in South Africa.
"We need some fire crackers from Virender Sehwag. A hundred will be a good start but seeing out the new ball is crucial," Harbhajan said.
"There is a bit of rough outside off stump but if you bat off the back foot like Kallis and Boucher did, and use your brain, there are a lot of runs to be scored."