A century by Jacques Kallis in what is likely to be his last Test innings emphasised his status as one of the cricketing greats yesterday and ensured a fitting farewell after the South African’s sudden decision to end his 18-year Test career.
His 115 in South Africa’s first innings against India in the second Test in Durban moved him up to third place on the list of Test run-scorers (one run ahead of India’s Rahul Dravid) and helped his side to a 166-run lead on the fourth day at Kingsmead.
The innings characterised the qualities of the 38-year-old – understated, stoic and determined – but also saw a brief display of emotion from a player better known for his dour demeanour. He allowed himself a brief teary moment when the Durban crowd gave him a lengthy standing ovation as he reached his 45th Test ton – a figure bettered only by the 51 scored by the also recently-retired Sachin Tendulkar.
Soon after, Kallis passed Dravid on the list of Test run-scorers but the moment went unrecognised at the stadium. Kallis, who was out when he tried to launch Ravindra Jadeja into the stands and top-edged to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has 13,289 runs behind Tendulkar (15,921) and Ricky Ponting (13,378) in the list of top Test batsmen.
The South African’s Test figures – including 292 wickets and 200 catches – stand him out as the best all-rounder of all-time although Gary Sobers of the West Indies remains the sentimental choice of most aficionados.
That has much to do with the fact Kallis lacked a demonstrative personality to go with his fulsome array of strokeplay and ability to dictate the course of a match.
His Test career started slowly and it was only much later that his own country’s fans seemed to warm to him.
“There were times when I could have dominated more,” he told the authors Ali Bacher and David Williams in a new book. “But for years I tried to bat through an innings. When our batting line-up became stronger, I had the opportunity to be more aggressive, especially in Test cricket.”
South Africa had begun the day on 299 for 5 and Kallis, along with nightwatchman Dale Steyn, set about edging them towards a first-innings lead. Kallis brought up his ton with a nudge through mid-on off Jadeja having faced 273 balls and hit 13 fours.
That left the hosts 342 for 5 after 120 overs in reply to India’s first-innings total of 334. Kallis then fell for 115, but Robin Peterson and Faf du Plessis put on 110 for the eighth wicket to help the hosts reach 500, a lead of 166 runs.
India reached the close on 68 for 2, 98 runs behind, and need to bat for the majority of the final day to earn a draw that would make the two-Test series finish 0-0.