Durban: In his final Test, Jacques Kallis methodically reached yet another half-century and left people wondering why he wasn’t carrying on in the longest format.
He remained on course for a farewell hundred, and with the help of AB de Villiers, who conjured a 50-plus score for the 10th Test in a row, took South Africa to a solid position before rain and bad light stopped play an hour after tea. India had begun the day well, with three wickets early on, before Kallis and de Villiers got together and blunted the attack with a 127-run stand.
De Villiers was the more fluent of the two as Kallis, who was struck on the arm by Zaheer Khan, took his time gauging the track. He opened up with a couple of cracking aerial hits down the ground off Jadeja and there was also a classic backfoot punch off Ishant before lunch as evidence of his solidity at the crease.
But there were questions to be asked of Kallis’ tactics as the day wore on. While an undisputed all-time great, the questions over whether his batting is dominant enough have never really gone away, and those doubts will be back in circulation after his sluggish scoring rate towards the end of the day. He showed little enterprise against even a part-timer like Rohit Sharma and South Africa scored at below two an over at a time when they needed to get the game moving, especially considering a high possibility of rain on both the remaining days of this Test.
The one bright spot in the Indian attack was Ravindra Jadeja who, in his first Test as the lead spinner, put an end to discussions over whether he should have been picked ahead of R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha. He didn’t just play a containing role to support the quicks – which he did, wheeling in over after over – but also made four breakthroughs to make sure South Africa didn’t run away with the game.
The most important of those was of de Villiers midway through the second session. South Africa were rattling along at about five an over after lunch, India were looking ragged, and though Jadeja brought in a measure of control, de Villiers had just hit a reverse-swept boundary and the deficit was below 100. Jadeja then got the ball to spin sharply, taking the outside edge through to slip to end a burgeoning partnership.
That sucked the momentum out of the innings, as JP Duminy took his time to settle in and Kallis couldn’t force the pace either. Kallis reached his half-century soon after de Villiers’ dismissal, but scored just five singles off his next 40 deliveries as Jadeja kept a leash on the scoring. In the 15 post-de Villiers overs till tea, South Africa made 27. India opted against the new ball and with Jadeja and Rohit bowling in the fading light, South Africa crawled, losing Duminy in the process as well.
Progress had been more brisk in the morning for South Africa, before Jadeja’s bounce provided the first wicket of the day. Graeme Smith looked to smash the ball over the leg side, but it hit high on the bat and swirled to midwicket, where Shikhar Dhawan sprinted back and safely collected the ball as it fell over his shoulder.
Hashim Amla’s dry spell continued when he played down the wrong line to a Mohammed Shami delivery to lose his offstump, and off the very next ball, the set Alviro Petersen was surprised by the bounce from Jadeja to glove a catch to first slip. Again, it was a sharp catch, with M Vijay diving forward to pouch a low chance. South Africa had lost three wickets for 10 runs and had two new batsmen in the middle.
There was only a small crowd in considering it was an early start, but they made plenty of noise as Kallis walked out to bat and was greeted by a guard of honour from India. The emotion of the moment didn’t seem to affect Kallis, as he set about thwarting India’s bowlers.
He was helped by the off-colour India attack. Ishant Sharma was back to his profligate self, providing gifts on the leg stump, and Zaheer wasn’t able to consistently threaten either. Shami was the pick of the medium-pacers, getting the ball to regularly reverse in and constantly hitting speeds near 140kph.
Though they take the points for the day’s play, South Africa’s batsmen would have to find a better balance between caution and aggression when they take the crease tomorrow if they want to fulfil de Villiers’ hopes of a lead of 100 and a subsequent series win.
South Africa 299 for 5 (Kallis 78*, Jadeja 4-87) trail India 334 by 35 runs