Centurion - Landmark knocks for Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers grabbed the headlines on a thrilling Saturday at SuperSport Park, as the Proteas remained in charge after three days of the first Test against India.
At the end of a frenetic day in which 444 runs were scored at a rate of over five an over, India were 190/2, still needing 294 to make South Africa bat again.
Milestones are coming thick and fast in this Test match, but Kallis’ long-awaited double hundred was undoubtedly the most significant of the day.
After waiting 143 Test matches and 15 years to get past the magic 200, Kallis finally did it with a leg glance off Jaidev Unadkat’s bowling shortly after lunch.
It was a gritty and virtually chanceless knock, in which Kallis overcame a major mental barrier given his history of getting out early after sleeping on a century. Resuming on 102 this morning, he kept his head while Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers blazed runs at the other end.
Kallis’s 201 not out came up in 270 balls, and featured 15 fours and five sixes.
“I didn’t think about it too much until lunch,” said Kallis, who went to the break on 182. “That was probably the longest 40 minutes of my life!”
“The crowd’s response certainly gave me goosebumps. It makes you really proud to be a South African when you get ovations like that.”
“My team-mates have been behind me the whole way and they wanted it as much as I did, so big thanks to them too.”
De Villiers’s innings was also a sensational record-breaker. His 75-ball hundred before lunch was the fastest for a South African in Tests, and was a delight to watch. It probably took a lot of pressure off Kallis into the bargain.
The day began with Amla adding a quick 24 runs to his overnight score of 116, before he got out in soft fashion. He was caught behind down the leg side off Ishant Sharma, which brought home town man de Villiers to the wicket and signalled two hours of punishment for India’s bowlers as de Villiers and Kallis put on a memorable 195 further runs before lunch.
After the interval Kallis quickly got his double ton and de Villiers was caught behind off Sharma for 129 immediately thereafter. South African skipper Graeme Smith chose the moment to declare on 620/4.
That gave the Proteas a monumental lead of 484.
India had half a day’s batting to negotiate after the fireworks of the morning, but they did a good job to reduce the deficit to a still-enormous 294 with just two wickets down.
Openers Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir both made half-centuries as they put on 137 for the first wicket and frustrated South Africa no end.
Two catches went down in this period, with Amla missing out on a very tough chance off Sehwag and Alviro Petersen spilling an easier opportunity to remove Gambhir.
In addition, Ryan McLaren missed two early run-out chances in the first three overs as his shies at the stumps went just wide.
Then came another milestone as Paul Harris picked up his 100th Test wicket in the form of Sehwag. It was a trademark Harris dismissal as the batsman went for a big shot and got it wrong, sending it up in the air for Smith to catch running across from mid-off.
Sehwag made 63 off 79 balls, including nine fours and a six.
Dale Steyn then doubled South Africa’s joy as he came back for a third spell and struck to remove Gambhir for a hard-fought 80 that featured 10 fours.
Bad light brought play to a slightly early halt, but all concerned were probably happy to get off the park after a memorable but very long day’s Test cricket.
South Africa will return on Sunday buoyed by their two wickets and the knowledge that they still have plenty of runs (and time) to play with.