India in SA
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Misfortune visits Kallis again
Cape Town – Life isn’t always an idyllic journey, as Jacques Kallis has twice been reminded within the last week.
The veteran all-rounder’s world had seemed wonderful just a little before that, as he finally registered his maiden Test double century in the crushing win against India at Centurion.
But in the heady afterglow the brilliant player has been served up successive, sharp little reminders -- in life and then back in gloriously fickle cricket – that nirvana is not an ever-present.
First he suffered the indignity of crashing his flash Audi R8 into a suburban gate in the wee hours of last Tuesday, with injury fortunately restricted to pride instead of body as sections of the media and bloggers and Tweeters made a gleeful meal of the pretty minor occurrence.
And then on Monday a very rare slice of misfortune at his primary trade saw the follow-up innings to his 201 not out at SuperSport Park curtailed to a mere 10 during the Proteas’ broadly sickly first knock of 131 on day two of the second Test at Kingsmead.
Kallis and his partner so often in destructive batting feats over the past year or so, Hashim Amla, were just showing budding signs of stabilising the South African innings when the latter drove a ball with medium velocity back toward bowler Ishant Sharma.
It brushed the fingers of the stringbean paceman and deflected onto the non-striking stumps with Kallis, out of his ground, turning back with due haste to lunge for attempted safety ... alas, a fraction too late.
The Indians were understandably ecstatic about their soft, bolt-from-the-blue but perfectly legitimate “strike” as the stoutly-built batsman trudged back to the pavilion shaking his head and visibly cursing to himself – who knows, perhaps in the same way as he may have done in the driver’s seat at Herschel Walk?
Also open for intriguing debate is whether the Proteas would have found themselves in quite the back-foot predicament they are had Kallis indeed made it back to safety and fought on at the crease for the cause.
Instead it was almost as if the batsmen who followed him in were suddenly all out of mental synch: let’s face it, not too many of them have taken to the middle in recent Tests under backs-to-wall circumstances.
Far more often, they have only been adding last, low-pressure twigs to already solidly-constructed “nests”, when you think about it.
Kallis is desperately seldom prey to run-out as a mode of Test dismissal, even in the considerably more orthodox way of failing to make his ground – perhaps courtesy of an inspired pick-up and throw -- in scuttling through for an ambitious run.
Only six times in his now 243 Test innings has Kallis succumbed in this fashion; previously the beneficiaries had been Australia three times and England twice until India joined this particular “party”.
Impromptu research by Sport24 seems to indicate that it is exactly 100 knocks, too, since he was last dismissed in that way: for 66 against England at Newlands in January 2005.
But maybe this is the start of a bit of a “Boxing Day Test bogey” for the Warriors star, because in a corresponding slot on the international calendar in 2001, Kallis was cruelly run out for 99 in the second innings against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (South Africa were later well beaten by nine wickets).
Fortuitous Kallis scalp or not during Monday’s weirdly ding-dong action, India warrant strong praise for their effort in routing the Proteas for their worst first-innings total in Durban in 71 years and supping with the whip hand despite their own second-knock setbacks.
There is no substitute for skill and wiles and in the returning Zaheer Khan, the tourists’ attack suddenly offered lots more of that than it had done at Centurion – he showed once more that he can be a handful even when clearly still less than 100 percent Test-match fit.
Back in 1939, South Africa were bundled out for 103 by England at Kingsmead, even with a top four boasting Bruce Mitchell, Pieter van der Bijl, Eric Rowan and Dudley Nourse.
Maybe the modern South Africans can take some heart from the second innings fightback then: the home team may have still lost by an innings and 13 runs, but at least they posted a way rosier 353 to salvage some batting honour.
SuperSport commentator Shaun Pollock is an old Durban hand, of course, and he remained adamant on Monday: “No way was this a 131 wicket; it’s a decent surface.”
The inference, it seemed, was that even if the Proteas have to hunt the highest score of the match in the fourth innings – possibly the tall order of 250-300 – this contest could yet produce some dramatic twists and turns.
Kepler Wessels made the point, too, that the Test has progressed so far so quickly that a victory target may well be chased in conditions more akin to “third and fourth day” than fourth and fifth.
Plus we all know that one JH Kallis is the sort of cricketer with a reputation for not ever being down on personal luck for terribly long.
India are more comfortably placed, for sure, but don’t scribble down 1-1 just yet, will you?