x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Jacques Kallis fifty gives South Africa edge

Day 3 of second and final Test against India truncated at Durban as hosts just 35 runs behind with five wickets in hand. Anand Vasu reports.

Jacques Kallis might have been playing his last Test innings in Durban on Saturday. Rogan Ward / Reuters
Jacques Kallis might have been playing his last Test innings in Durban on Saturday. Rogan Ward / Reuters

DURBAN // Even an annoying bit of rain and persistent bad light could not dim what could end up as the final innings Jacques Kallis plays in Test cricket. He walked onto the field at 10.26 am to a guard of honour from the India team, and, when he was forced off it by the elements at 4.02pm, Kallis took his time at the boundary rope, waving his bat to all parts of the stands at Kingsmead.

Kallis was 22 short of his 45th Test hundred, and South Africa had reached 299 for five on a mixed day of Test cricket.

South Africa began the final day right on top, with Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen having put on 82 on the third evening. There was a sense of urgency to the opening batsmen as India kept Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami behind, hoping that they could get some reverse swing later on as the ball got older.

The urgency South Africa showed cost them their first wicket when Smith gave Ravindra Jadeja the charge and tried to loft him over the on side. The ball ballooned up into the air and Shikhar Dhawan covered good ground from midwicket to hang onto a tough catch.

Hashim Amla’s disappointing series continued when Mohammad Shami got a ball to shape in a touch and straighten and the off stump was pegged back. Amla, who was rooted to the crease, played inside the line of the ball and paid the price.

Petersen (62) became the third wicket to fall in the span of 10 runs when he poked at Jadeja and edged straight to the lone slip fielder. Suddenly, India had a sniff on a slightly sluggish pitch that Jadeja had used beautifully.

With Kallis at the crease and AB de Villiers looking to be ruthlessly aggressive, MS Dhoni resorted to interesting field settings. Zaheer Khan operated from around the stumps to a packed off-side field, and repeatedly good shots went straight to hand. However, when it became clear that reverse swing was not going to be a major factor, De Villiers opened up, hitting boundaries with ease.

Kallis’ innings went in fits and starts. Occasionally, he would go as many as 15 balls without scoring a run, but this clearly did not bother him. Kallis, as always, was willing and able to give the bowler his due when the situation called for it, but cashed in spectacularly at the first opportunity. Zaheer was creamed through cover point off the back foot, a shot few in the world game can play with as much authority.

When he overcompensated the next ball, pitching up, Kallis went down, on bent knee, and essayed a cover drive that the MCC coaching manual could not improve upon.

De Villiers and Kallis had put on 127 for the fourth wicket, and it was Jadeja again who separated the pair. Jadeja tossed one up a bit more, drawing de Villiers (74) forward, and the ball drifted in and turned away just enough to beat the stroke, the outside edge going straight to Virat Kohli at slip.

The fall of de Villiers’ wicket forced Kallis to retreat into his shell a bit, and perhaps the veteran had one eye on the light as well. The clouds had rolled in a touch earlier than the weatherman had predicted, and India opted to stay on the part and continue with spin at both ends. Kallis had been utterly comfortable against Jadeja, launching him back over his head for comfortable boundaries, and took no chances against the part-time off-breaks of Rohit Sharma.

When Jadeja picked up his fourth, trapping JP Duminy in front of the stumps, South Africa called for a nightwatchman, and it proved to be a sensible move. Dale Steyn only faced seven balls before the players left the field.

Kallis, unbeaten on a typically controlled 78, had taken the lion share of the strike on the day, facing 224 balls. With rain and bad light robbing the game of precious time, the first landmark to look forward to was Kallis’ hundred. An outright win was far from ruled out with two days to play, but, with every added disruption, the odds on a draw shortened.

Anand Vasu is managing editor at Wisden India