Sri Lanka in SA

Full-house Kallis leads charge

2012-01-03 22:21
Jacques Kallis (Gallo Images)
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - It was never quite the monkey-off-the-back affair that his drawn-out quest to achieve a maiden double century was, but Jacques Kallis achieved yet another glittering milestone in his marathon Test career at Newlands on Tuesday when he joined the “full house” club.

Scorecard after Day 1

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Almost effortlessly reaching three figures against a Sri Lankan attack that was dangerously close to pop-gun at times on a sun-bathed day one of the third Test, he earned membership of an elite group of batsmen - as the 11th - to achieve tons against all nine other Test-playing nations.

He was also the second South African, after his current national coach and former team-mate Gary Kirsten had been the first worldwide to complete the trick.

Of course both are Cape Town-born, and this city so nearly boasts a hat-trick of achievers in that regard: Herschelle Gibbs, now no longer part of the Proteas’ Test plans, failed by a whisker to do it.

Ironically the only team Gibbs could not record a century against were the very Lankans - the closest he came against them was 92 at Centurion in 2002/03 before he was particularly unfortunately (given the statistical circumstances later to take root) run out!

This was Kallis’s 41st Test century and, considering that he closed the first day unbeaten on a typically imperious 159, he has already come pretty close to doubling his previous best Test score of 87 against Sri Lanka at Kandy in 2000.

He is simply an irresistible force at Newlands, where this traditional holiday-season fixture almost unfailingly brings out the best in him; certainly his pre-game average at the venue of 72 looks like swelling by quite some distance.

Of course another double century looks his for the taking now as well, against a toiling visiting attack badly missing the injured Dilhara Fernando, who had bothered several Proteas batsmen for bounce over the course of the previous two Tests.

For much of the first part of the day, even as they had some initial success in bundling out Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla cheaply, their bowling inconsistency was almost too bad to be true, with long hops and half-volleys coming dime a dozen.

It meant that for good tracts of the juggernaut, 200-plus partnership between Kallis and the admirable, recalled Alviro Petersen, South Africa were rolling along at around five runs to the over, almost in ODI-fashion.

Give the Lankans their due: they did pull things back a bit in run-rate terms, but still seem very likely to be responding, eventually, to a posting of 500 or even well more by the Proteas.

Captain Tillakaratne Dilshan made a controversial decision, indeed, in inserting South Africa ... it seemed a negative move so soon after their Durban heroics, although it was not quite in the league of Nasser Hussain’s infamous invitation to Australia to bat at the Gabba once, when they said “thanks very much” and romped to 364 for two on day one of an Ashes series.

So South Africa’s biggest challenge over the remaining course of the match is probably going to be completion of the “20 wickets job” to secure a much-needed home series win.

There was no first-day turn to interest the Lankans’ left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, but there seldom is at Newlands and perhaps, as the pitch begins to wear under the expected unrelenting sunshine, the home nation’s leg-spinner Imran Tahir will finally come forcefully into his own.

The 36-year-old Kallis is showing more and more of a penchant, in the twilight of his illustrious career, to want to start dominating from startlingly early in his knocks, and he did flirt with danger on the pull stroke twice or three times - he came close once to disturbing his stumps as he leaned back especially flamboyantly.

But he was also very quickly playing some cracking drives and other textbook shots, and before you knew it he was well on his way to making up for a strangely erratic home summer thus far.

Petersen, meanwhile, was a fitting partner in the plunder, looking a model of serenity and confident body language - perhaps as befits a 31-year-old with plenty of first-class experience and prior Test caps as well.

It was almost like a rosy second debut for the Lions man, after he had also made a century in his first outing for South Africa at Kolkata in February 2010.

He was dropped after registering four successive scores in the twenties against the very same India on home soil last season, but there was going to be no such charitable repeat here as he looked unfussed and smartly focused for the vast majority of his innings of 109.

Petersen may well now have re-booked himself in for the long haul at the top of the order, and the next point of interest will be to see how Jacques Rudolph, who he replaced as Smith’s partner upfront, fares in a new stationing at No 6.

If, of course, he gets the chance to knuckle down for a big ‘un at Newlands ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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