I WAS THERE: The day SuperSport Park saluted Jacques Kallis
The first Test between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park in December 2010 proved to be an emotional one – not only for the Proteas’ Golden Generation and South African supporters, but especially for Jacques Kallis.
Here, Independent's Gauteng sports editor Morgan Bolton reminisces about the match in which the "King" finally made his double ton.
SOUTH AFRICA: Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, Ashwell Prince, Mark Boucher (wk), Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel.
INDIA: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Suresh Raina, MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Jadev Unadkat.
1. The setup: the best of the best
Under the leadership of Graeme Smith, the South African team had become a juggernaut in the Test arena and enjoyed numerous successes, including beating England in England, beating Australia in Australia and drawing against India on the sub-continent. The team that faced India in a home Test series represented arguably a Golden Generation of players, and included such greats as AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.
The Indian side were not too shabby themselves, and were highly rated. The series was billed as a clash of the two best Test sides in the world, with South Africa perhaps favourites due to them recently returning from the aforementioned drawn series on the sub-continent. Adding to this flavour was the fact that former Proteas opener, Gary Kirsten, was coach of the Indians and it was hoped his insider knowledge would help them secure a first Test series victory over the Proteas in South Africa – the closet they had ever come up until that moment was a drawn series in 2005/06.
2 The build-up: The monkey on his back
By the time India arrived in South Africa for the three-match Test series in the 2010/11 international season, Jacques Kallis had already established himself as one of cricket’s greatest players. Already, he had compiled 11 613 runs at an average of 56.65 but one milestone in his 15-year, 143 Test match career up until that point, had eluded him – a double century.
Kallis had come aching close to a double century in 2001 when he fell 11 runs short against Zimbabwe – his highest Test score up until that point. Now, arguably at the start of the twilight of his career, many supporters and pundits alike had begun wondering if he would ever achieve the feat. There were genuine concerns from all quarters that he would fail in this final endeavour, and many believed for him to ascend to legendary status, he would have to secure the mark. They neglected the fact, however, that “King Kallis” had already racked up 200-plus Test wickets, making him one of the most prolific all-rounders the game had and has ever seen.
3. Matchday: The King has his day
The first Test at SuperSport Park started in less than ideal conditions. Heavy rain that morning delayed the start of play. Moreover, there was a sense of anxiety that the day would be washed out. But, as is the case with the often temperamental weather that defines the Highveld, the rain stopped, the skies cleared and soon the sun was beating down on a perfect SuperSport Park outfield.
An unsure Smith won an important toss and elected to field, hoping to take advantage of a damp pitch and the conditions associated with such a wicket that, in his summation, would only flatten out as the match progressed. And take advantage of the conditions the Proteas did. They dismissed India for 136, with Morne Morkel the destroyer-in-chief finishing with 5/20.
Beginning their first innings on day 2, the South Africans plied on the pressure with a solid opening partnership of 111 between Smith and Petersen, and with the fall of Smith (62 off 87 balls, caught by Dhoni and bowled by Harbhajan Singh), Amla strode to the middle. Smith’s hunch that the wicket would eventually dry out and play nice, now proved to be a masterstroke, as the South African top order imposed their will on a flailing Indian bowling attack.
Amla would go onto score a magnificent 140 before losing his wicket – a leg-side clip to Dhoni off the bowling of Ishant Sharma – and would be followed by quickfire 129 off 112 balls from De Villiers that would eventually close out the innings, the Proteas declaring on 620/4. But the innings undoubtedly belonged to Kallis, who joined Amla at the crease after Petersen (77 off 114 balls) lost his wicket, caught at short leg off the bowling of Singh. Showing fluidity of motion and all the hallmarks that had made him considered one of the best, Kallis moved elegantly to his 38th Test century off 130 balls in a partnership with Amla that would eventually yield 230 runs. At stumps, the Proteas were in full control on 366/2.
Day 3 would prove to be a momentous occasion for Kallis, the Proteas and their supporters. The all-rounder continued where he left off the day before, racking up 150 runs off 210 balls in the first session. By lunchtime, along with De Villiers, the two premier batsmen had guided SA to 591/3, Kallis returning to the dressing room on 182.
What followed, in Kallis’ words, was the “longest 40-minutes I have ever felt,” as he prepared mentally for the push toward his maiden double century. He achieved the feat 47 balls after his 150 with a cheeky leg-glance boundary off left-arm paceman Jadev Unadkat to the admiration of his teammates, a tearful Robin Jackman and stunned-into-silence HD Ackerman in the commentary box, and the crowd and supporters around the country. De Villiers would soon thereafter lose his wicket, swiping at a back of a length ball delivered by Sharma, edging the ball into the welcome embrace of Dhoni and thus ending the South African innings as Smith called time on their batting efforts. Kallis would end the innings 201 not out having faced 270 balls (15x4, 5x6).
4. More than a feeling: An ovation that extended beyond all boundaries
Utter jubilation met Kallis’s double century as he guided the ball down to four at the fine leg boundary. What followed were scenes unseen at any ground in South Africa. Overwhelmed by a sense of shared accomplishment, the SuperSport Park faithful stood in unison, giving Kallis an ovation that lasted well over two minutes. De Villiers, Kallis’s partner at the other end, jumped for joy, giving a fist-pump mid-air for good measure and then embraced his teammate, elation etched on his face. Kallis, meanwhile, saluted his delighted teammates and the crowd with a subdued, albeit euphoric celebration, raising his helmet in one hand, his bat in the other, in glorious fulfillment.
Tears welled up in my eyes on that day. Kallis had been for many years a hero to the cricket community at large and witnessing him scoring his maiden double century was a joy to behold. As the cheers rang out around the stadium, now awash with the supporters proudly waving the South African flag, the importance of the moment for all his countrymen became clear. In the build-up to his first venture past 200, and while he was navigating his way through an oddly nervous 190s, he shared an apprehension of nervous anticipation with the crowd.
The relief that came with his four was palpable, breaking the tension with exuberant celebration as, and not only with the supporters in the stands, but the whole of South Africa, celebrated a wonderful achievement that had been a long time coming. Thereafter, many a celebratory drink was consumed in his name, and it is a moment that proved that one person can indeed have a lasting effect on the greater whole. For his efforts, and quite justifiably, Kallis was awarded the Man of the Match award – incidentally he also holds the Test record in that category with the most such awards with 23.
5. The Aftermath: The monkey off his back
The Indians were dominated during the Test, and would eventually lose the match by an innings and 25 runs. The Test series would go on to be a draw, however, as the Indians accounted for themselves by taking advantage of the growing and abnormal South African curse of playing in Durban by securing an 87-run victory in the second Test there. The third Test, played at Newlands, ended in a draw and the two teams shared the series’ spoils 1-1.
In the subsequent five-match ODI series, the Proteas would fight back after being 2-0 down, winning the match-up 3-2. India would go on to win the ICC Cricket World Cup, hosted on the sub-continent, a year later, while a devastating 49-run loss to New Zealand in the quarter-finals put paid to the South African campaign. In the Test arena, the South Africans ended 2011 as they started that year – second in the ICC rankings – behind England as India lost their No 1 spot by falling to the third best team in the world.
With the double century monkey off his back, Kallis would enjoy continued success in the Test arena before retiring in December 2013, his last match also against India. In that Boxing Day Test at Kingsmead, Kallis scored 115 in the first innings – his last batting performance. He ended his career with 13 289 runs (averaging 55.37), 292 wickets at an average of 32.65 and 200 catches. Against Sri Lanka a year earlier, he compiled his highest score of 224 in a one-off Test at Newlands in the second innings. He remains the third highest run scorer in Test cricket and the eight highest in ODIs and is the only player ever in Test cricket to have scored more than 10 000 runs and taken 200-plus wickets.