Superhuman Kallis sets up thrilling finale
Cape Town, third Test, day 4: South Africa 362 and 341 (Kallis 109*, Boucher 55; Harbhajan 7-120) v India 364
JACQUES KALLIS became only the 11th man in Test history to hit a century in each innings more than once as he steered South Africa from a perilous 46 for 4 to set India 340 to win the match and series - what would be the highest successful fourth innings chase in South Africa and the 12th highest ever.
Kallis came in early on the fourth day, at the end of second over after Alviro Petersen was trapped in front by Harbhajan Singh for 22, and had barely reached double figures when Hashim Amla was clean bowled by the spinner - leaving South Africa just 44 ahead with only six wickets remaining, and Harbhajan with figures of 4-10.
Then, aided by AB de Villiers (13), Ashwell Prince (22), Mark Boucher (55), Dale Steyn (32), Morne Morkel (28) and Lonwabo Tsotsobe (8) - the last four wickets realising 211 runs - he reached three figures, with a glance off Harbhajan, becoming the sixth South African to score two hundreds in a Test.
Kallis’s feat is all the more remarkable given that he missed the entire India first innings with an injury, a blow to his chest during his first innings century preventing him from fielding; the contusion in the ribs and resultant muscle strain meant he would only bat “if absolutely necessary”.
He was never likely, though, to miss out, saying on the second evening:
“It was a little bit sore throughout the innings but you’ve just got to get on with the job... Most games you play, there is a little niggle and it was just another niggle. Hopefully it doesn’t keep me out of the game for too long.
“While facing the ball, you forget the pain. Once you hit the ball your body reminds you that you are a bit sore.”
Kallis is now second only to Sachin Tendulkar (who hit his 51st Test century in this match) in the number of Test centuries, with 40, leapfrogging Ricky Ponting, whose disastrous Ashes series sees him stuck on 39. The next highest South African in the list is current Proteas captain Graeme Smith, who has 22 Test centuries.
Indeed, Harbhajan, speaking at the close, rated Kallis second only to Sachin. He told the Press Trust of India:
“Kallis is in the form of his life. We all know that he has got the record to speak for himself. I would rate him very high. After Tendulkar, I think Kallis is the best cricketer in the world.”
And on the prospects of an India win, he added:
“Kallis and Boucher showed that if you use your brains you can score runs. We need to see off the first hour. We need some firecrackers from Sehwag. If he can take us to 100 for no loss, that will be a good start. The new ball will be crucial.
“It does a bit in the morning, but as the day progresses it gets settled a bit. I don’t know why that is. I would have liked to get wickets later on as well as it would have been good to chase 200. Kallis showed what a big players he is, scoring runs under pressure in difficult conditions...
“It was a great series. When No. 1 and No. 2 play you have great competition. This is what you expect from a series like this. At one stage we thought we would be chasing 200, but now we’re left with 340 to get.
“There have been runs scored, wickets taken. It's better to play in conditions like this where there is something in the bowling all the time. In India, there's nothing for the bowling and people like me go in at No. 7 and can murder the bowling.”
All set, then, for that rarest of treats, going into the last day of a series with all three series and all four match results possible... that’s why, 133 years young, Test cricket remains the greatest sport of all.
• Cricinfo: Live text commentary of day 5 from 0830hrs GMT