x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Kallis century greets newest Test ground

Tanvir Ahmed gets Pakistan off to a flying start, but their decision to bowl first eventually backfires.

South Africa’s Jacques Kallis drives the ball on his way to his 37th Test match century yesterday.
South Africa’s Jacques Kallis drives the ball on his way to his 37th Test match century yesterday.

ABU DHABI // Any fallibility Jacques Kallis might display as a batsman is an illusion glimpsed briefly in the aftermath of a rare false stroke.

When he swished and missed at an appealing away swinger from Mohammad Sami yesterday morning, Pakistan might have thought they had stumbled on some precious, previously hidden secret.

Normal service resumed immediately, however. He sent the next two balls from the same bowler to the extra-cover boundary with a pair of off-drives that should have been painted by Nicolas Poussin, so classically exquisite were they.

From then on, the fact Kallis would go on to make a century was about as predictable as the sun rising over Abu Dhabi this morning.

He duly proceeded to three-figures in 135 balls, his 37th century in Test matches and second in successive games in the UAE, following on from last week's effort in Dubai.

AB de Villiers trailed along happily in his batting mentor's wake, notching up a century of his own.

Thanks to the dynamic duo's latest alliance, South Africa will begin the second day in a formidable position, on 311 for five this morning.

De Villiers closed on 120 not out, having earlier seen Kallis reach 105 before departing to Tanvir Ahmed.

"I always try to maintain when you are in form you need to keep it going," Kallis said. "If you get in you need to make it count.I have worked a lot with Duncan Fletcher [South Africa's batting consultant] to give me more scoring shots. I try to play each game as freely as I can and try to play by instinct."

The Zayed Cricket Stadium may be the shiniest and newest of all Test cricket venues, as it became the 103rd ground to host the long-form of cricket when Umar Gul sent down the first ball.

However, the rules for success in the format which have long served Test captains still apply, such as: if you win the toss, bat first.

It was odd, then, that Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, decided to disregard 123 years of accepted wisdom, as well as the evidence of a rock-hard pitch and a blazing sun.

Instead, he decided to insert a side which contains one of the game's modern batting greats and a host of other run-greedy stars besides.

And for one glorious hour there appeared to be a method in his madness, thanks to the exploits of Pakistan's debutant swing bowler, Tanvir.

Pakistan's 31-year-old newcomer had an admirable first day in Test cricket. He dismissed Alviro Petersen with his third ball and Hashim Amla with his eighth.

When Graeme Smith went, as he was third out with the score on 33, he was probably ruing what he had wished for. South Africa's captain had hoped for a livelier wicket than that which they were presented with in the drawn opening match in Dubai.

However, once the effects of the new ball had worn off, the pitch appeared every bit as docile as that at Dubai International Cricket Stadium, and Kallis and De Villiers cashed in.

"The wicket played a little differently to what we thought it would," Kallis said. "Hopefully the seamers will continue to have a part to play."