Kallis, Smith: Best slips ever?

2012-12-07 17:32
Proteas (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Certainly in statistical terms, long-time South African Test colleagues Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith have an ever-strengthening case for suggesting they are the best slip combination in history.

Proteas captain Smith ended the three-Test conquest of Australia recently as the leading catcher on either side with 10, even bettering both wicketkeepers, compatriot AB de Villiers and the Aussies’ Matthew Wade, who got nine dismissals each (eight catches and one stumping apiece).

By pouching five catches in the series-deciding Australian second innings of the Perth Test, “Biff” also broke into a hitherto five-strong elite club of fielders (glovemen excluded) to achieve that figure in a single opposition knock.

Those before him to achieve the feat were Victor Richardson (Australia) in 1936, Yajurvindra Singh (India) in 1977, Mohammad Azharhuddin (India) in 1989, Kris Srikkanth (India) in 1992 and the most recent, New Zealand’s Stephen Fleming against Zimbabwe at Harare in 1997 -- still all of 15 years ago.

Of course slips do not always man that particular post all day and one of Smith’s catches on series-ending day four at the WACA was a smart one at short midwicket to dispose of Wade off Robin Peterson’s bowling.

But both he and Kallis, hefty yet sharp-reflex units with apparent buckets for hands, are especially renowned for their phenomenal reliability when standing next to each other in the “cordon” alongside the ‘keeper.

It is efforts at slip that have accounted for the great majority of each player’s catches, and they go a long way to explaining why both Cape Town-based national team-mates and friends find themselves among the top 10 for most catches worldwide in a Test career.

Obviously helped by South Africa’s often lively home conditions and near-eternal strength in the pace and seam bowling department, which ensures a steady stream of nicks, Kallis (192) and Smith (147) have 339 Test catches between them.

Their careers have almost always dovetailed, considering that when Smith first broke into Test cricket in 2002, Kallis was already a seven-year stalwart at that level.

The last-named player lies third on the all-time list for catches, and considering his continued stellar level of overall performance aged 37, must have a good shout at going past the all-time top catcher, Rahul Dravid (210) and second-placed Ricky Ponting (196) – both those players retired during 2012.

Smith is currently 10th on the list. Apart from Dravid, Ponting and Kallis in the three leading positions, also above him at present are Mahela Jayawardene, Mark Waugh, Fleming, Brian Lara, Mark Taylor and Allan Border.

Considering that he is only 31, however, the potential for Smith to climb that ladder in a very meaningful way is strong.

Apart from his lofty achievements with bat and ball and rock-solid pair of hands in Tests, Kallis (125) also lies eighth on the list of players with most catches in one-day internationals, headed at the moment by Sri Lanka’s Jayawardene (194).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  jacques kallis  |  graeme smith  |  cricket


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