Sunday, 3 January 2010

Kallis peaks in the shadow of Table Mountain

JACQUES KALLIS, the timeless rock of South African cricket, crushed the life out of England's hopes of first day domination at Newlands today.
Playing in his home town where he averages 65 in Test cricket, Kallis stood firm while all around him crumbled. But they're used to that in Cape Town. It's his sixth Test hundred here.
With his side 1-0 down in the four-match series, Kallis alone kept the huge New Year Test crowd from collectively jumping over the edge of Table Mountain next door, just has he had in the opening Test at Centurion.
Without him they might have been humiliated like Australia were in their New Year Test in Sydney, skittled for 134 by Pakistan.
Kallis, 34 but "still playing my best cricket" as he told us two weeks ago, went to his 100 off 175 balls, crashing Kevin Pietersen's occasional off-spin to the fence. Magnificent. After 133 Tests and 10,000 Test runs at an average of over 50, the man just keeps on going, despite fracturing a rib last October.
By the close for bad light, he had scored 108, just as he had after the first day at Centurion. If he stays in, with the promoted bowler-batsman Dale Steyn providing capable support, the South Africans stay in the series. They were 51-3 and 127-5. But now they're 279-6. Honours even after a bizarre day.
To my right, the towering cliffs of Table Mountain are partially obscured by the vast containers of the South African Breweries factory next door to the cricket ground.
There are 16,867 fans here who have paid thousands for the privilege of attending the third Test of a finely balanced series between England and South Africa. And yet, after approximately 48,312 lagers they're as quiet as church mice.
And out in the middle, at 5.15pm in the middle of the African summer, the floodlights are on.
None of it makes any sense. Men in long white trousers battling away for five days in the rain or sweltering heat... and then the umpires take them off because it's getting too dark but everyone can see perfectly.
And Graeme Smith, their captain, walked off at lunchtime having a furious argument with Kevin Pietersen, England's South African-raised batsman. They went to school in different cities but share so much in terms of attitude and aptitude.
Perhaps he was angry because he'd won the simple toss of a coin which decides so much in Test cricket just once in 11 attempts.
And every so often we all stop to watch the television contradict the umpires, with the new decision review system adding further confusion to the modern game.
And out in the middle now, as we approach the close of the rain-delayed opening day, nobody can really so who's winning.
First it was England, when Jimmy Anderson ripped out Ashwell Prince, caught behind for nought, in his first over. Graham Onions that had Smith dropped by the otherwise perfect Graeme Swann an over later at 1-1. England, unchanged despite Paul Collingwood's dislocated left index finger, had won the toss and elected to bowl. It looked like the right decision under heavy skies which delayed the start by half an hour.
South Africa were crawling back when Hashim Amla was trapped lbw by Onions before lunch. Then Graeme Smith went the same way after lunch.
Jacques Kallis and AB De Villiers were pulling South Africa back in the game, but when they'd taken their nation from 51-3 to 127-4, AB had a rush of blood and Swann was back as captain Andrew Strauss took the catch at silly mid-on. A ball later it was all England as JP Duminy suffered his second successive golden duck and Swann took his 16th wicket of the series.
Kallis alone kept South Africa going, staying first with Mark Boucher and then Steyn, adding over 50 with both. This one is in the balance. But what a bizarre balance it is.

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