Kallis' dodgy ribs means hosts are undercooked

The fate of a series could depend on events in Potchefstroom today. By this evening, maybe earlier but not much later, South Africa will know whether their star all-rounder Jacques Kallis will be fit for the First Test.

They will be tempted, as their three-day training camp comes to an end in the university town where Dame Kelly Holmes trained for double Olympic gold, to seek another adjournment if it is necessary. But the match begins on Wednesday. Decisions will have to be made.

It is all a replica of the angst England have experienced so often in the past when doubts surrounded Andrew Flintoff. Perhaps it is a more extreme version of the condition. Kallis is the rock on which South Africa's side is built. Since he made his debut in December 1995, South Africa have played 147 Test matches, only 16 without him.

His broken rib, sustained in the Champions League in India (who says Twenty20 doesn't have a lot to answer for?) and aggravated when he subsequently played in the Champions Trophy and in a Twenty20 international against England at the start of this tour, is taking its time to mend. That is the way with ribs.

South Africa have made confident noises but Kallis has had to resort to an oxygen chamber to accelerate the healing process, a sure sign that all is not going according to plan. There are suggestions that not only is he a doubt for the opening match but for the whole series. Mixed messages from inside the camp – in one breath he could play as a batsman only, in another that could not be countenanced because he would still be affected by the injury – invite suspicion.

Kallis' absence would disrupt the side. With him as the bulwark of the batting and a trusty fourth seamer, South Africa are formidable. Without him they have to worry about how many batsmen to play and how many bowlers, or if there is another all-rounder up to it (there isn't). The matters of 10,277 runs and 248 wickets are not easy to replace.

The batting, starting with estimable captain Graeme Smith, would remain strong but someone would have to play the holding role. South Africa are desperate to win this series, partly to atone for losing to England at home five years ago, partly to redeem themselves after somehow losing to Australia in March having beaten them away and partly to try to reclaim the No 1 spot in the world rankings of which they were recently deprived by India. Their favoured team has been known from a long way out.

Their personable coach, Mickey Arthur, made no secret of his preferred side, which included the high velocity but contrasting bowling of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. The third seamer will be Makhaya Ntini, playing his 100th Test, but he is in decline, well down on pace. But, Kallis or no Kallis, they look undercooked. Five of the intended side have played not a single first-class match since the last Test against Australia in March.

Smith embodies the nature of modern cricket, particularly among South Africa's players. Since July 2005, he has played 40 first-class matches, 38 of which have been Tests. The last time he played in a first-class match at home other than a Test was in October 2004 for Western Province-Boland, when he made 200.

Smith has found a way of coping, as doubtless he will again. But it provides a chink of light for England whose own preparation has been far from ideal in the past few days. If Kallis fails to make it on Wednesday – and his chances are slim – the chink will become a window of opportunity.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
books
News
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
News
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
peopleJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice