SA v Pakistan
Kallis: Older and better!
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – So what if 35-year-old Jacques Kallis is looking just a tad thicker around the midriff again?
If he keeps delivering such immense contributions to the South African Test cause, and his personal statistics simultaneously continue to reflect his greatness in the arena, then perhaps the physical nick of the veteran player in question can be allowed a little ... well, leeway.
Kallis on Monday surged – yes, not a word you automatically associate with this bastion of solidity and unflappability at the crease – to his 36th Test century, while the occasional dust storm swirled around or not far from the Dubai International Cricket Stadium and the comfort level out in the middle was as notoriously testing as ever for that part of the planet.
Joined in a three-figure score by that other increasing dominator of world cricket, Hashim Amla, the pair posted an unbeaten double-century stand to give Graeme Smith the luxury of a declaration midway through the second session of day four, and the Proteas bowlers had already done some handy gnawing at embattled Pakistan’s defences by stumps.
Who knows, on a pitch becoming a bit up-and-down with some balls offering puffs of dust, Kallis’s aid to the big push for victory may not have ended yet ... some of his legendary “heavy balls” could winkle out a batsman or two (as they so often do) if he gets a bowling opportunity.
But even if he stays more routinely in the slip area on Tuesday – he already boasts a diving catch there as Pakistan closed two down – the old master has blossomed in a Test match yet again, with successive scores of 73 and 135 not out in the desert heat and personal receipt of 374 deliveries in total.
He has been the model professional, as you would expect, doing some solid graft in the first knock when his strike rate was 46.79, and then markedly cranking up the tempo in his longer-duration second vigil to 61.92.
Kallis struck four sixes along the way, which a commentator mentioned was as many as he has struck in a single Test innings for some five years – this match on a sluggish pitch has only seen one other thus far, by Pakistani tail-ender Umar Gul.
It was a reflection, perhaps, of how the former Wynberg Boys’ High idol has kept his performance curve rock-steady at the very least and arguably even enhanced it despite the bothersome intrusion of advancing age.
Indeed, for someone occasionally accused of a one-paced approach to Test batsmanship, the last three years or so have seen him play many innings with a greater sense of sparkle and adventure than before and this was pretty much one of them.
Here is something to consider as we chew on much longer South Africa may benefit from his stellar services: the last 12 months have seen him average 70.46, which is considerably higher than his career figure which has also just cranked a wee bit further northward to 55.83 after 141 Tests.
He lies 15th on the all-time list for best Test average, with only two others who are currently still playing above him: Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara (56.85) and Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar (56.54).
And of course those two get to knuckle down on kind-to-the-trade Subcontinental pitches rather more frequently than Kallis does.
There was a fairly protracted time when Ricky Ponting kept the big South African closely in his slipstream, but not any longer – the Australian has dipped to 54.68 although he still holds an edge in Test hundreds with 39.
Needless to say that stat, too, must be considered under threat.
Kallis’s present form? It’s just got to be worth a cheeky extra biscuit ...