King Kallis’s fairytale

2013-12-30 00:00

IT was a fairytale end to Jacques Kallis’s Test batting career at Kingsmead yesterday when he scored 115 in his final innings, his 45th Test century and an innings that saw him move into third spot on the all-time leading Test run scoring list with 13 289 runs.

Only India’s Sachin Tendulkar (15 921) and Australia’s Ricky Ponting (13 378) are above him and his 115th run saw him move ahead of India’s Rahul Dravid (13 288).

He has the best average of the top four with 55,37 and his 45 tons is bettered only by Tendulkar with 51, although he played 34 more Tests than Kallis. He has 58 half centuries and has been dismissed for nought only 16 times in 280 innings, with 40 not outs.

Sadly, Kingsmead saw a small crowd witness the hundred, but those who were there showed their appreciation with warm and hearty cheers, giving the legend of South African cricket a standing ovation.

He punched the air with delight, knowing he had ended his Test career as he would have wanted, put his team in a strong position and worked hard for his reward.

While the crowd spurred him on as he approached the magical three-figure mark, there were some anxious moments when he looked a little edgy, particularly on 99 when he played a ball from spinner Ravindra Jadeja that looked to spin back and perhaps sneak onto his stumps. Luckily he had it covered and brought up the century moments later.

When he was dismissed, Kingsmead stood again, as he raised his bat to the crowd. Team-mates came from the dressing room to meet him at the top of the stairs where hugs, handshakes and a kiss on the head from captain Graeme Smith was received.

Speaking after the day’s play, Protea spinner Robin Peterson said it was an emotional moment but Kallis, as he had done throughout his career, gave nothing away.

“We were all sure of him reaching the hundred but he was as calm as always. He is a great poker player and in that game, you have to make sure you give nothing away.

“Even though he still needed 22 runs at the start of play, he was relaxed overnight. I think he was more nervous in the nineties yesterday than he had been at any stage of his innings.”

Peterson added that for many of the players in the change room, it was an emotional time. “What a way to end a Test career that will never be matched — not for a long time anyway,” he said. “For all the senior players who had been around a while and played so much with Jacques, it was emotional and unfortunately, I missed the moment as I was padding up, getting ready to bat. Such is life.”

Earlier in the day, there were some spectators who had made the effort to ensure they did not miss a special moment in Test cricket history.

Paddy Steytler, who is in charge of cricket affairs at Berea Rovers, said, “There was no way I was going to miss this. It’s sad to see so few people here and if this was at Newlands, Cape Town, it would have been a sell-out. I think the Australians must be celebrating the Ashes and the fact that Kallis has retired.”

Velan Shankar, who lives in Bangalore, India, had come to South Africa for the tour. He was not disappointed in Kallis’s feat. “He is 100% the best. After Sachin [Tendulkar] he is the best of all time and South Africa’s greatest ever player.”

Mukelani Mdlalose was “over the moon” and was one of the first on his feet to applaud the occasion. “What a special way to end. I think he should play more though and should have stayed for the Australians, especially Mitchell Johnson.”

Young and old around the ground were in one voice that they were privileged to be able to say they were there when Kallis scored his 45th Test hundred in his final innings.

For the record, this was Kallis’s fifth Test century at Kingsmead where he has scored 1 266 Test runs at 50,64. It was his seventh century against India against whom he averages nearly 70 and the first Test century at Kingsmead by a SA player for five years.

As for Dale Steyn, this was one night watchman job he will treasure for the rest of his life, being at the other end of the wicket when Kallis reached his ton and sharing in a sixth-wicket stand of 86 with the great man.

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