Jacques Kallis does not do pizzazz. He does reliability. His idea of getting excited is probably to raise an eyebrow. It does not twitch often. If Brian Lara was the song and dance man of batsmanship, Kallis is the Shakespearean practitioner.
Before this series started the entire South African nation was worried about the state of Kallis’s rib which was broken. There was no need. Kallis has recovered to take his place in the middle order, holding it up on those enormously broad shoulders — in the real and figurative senses — from the pivotal position of number four.
South Africa were in deep trouble at 51 for three and 127 for five, though it would have been impossible to tell from Kallis’s countenance. He blocked a few and he played the occasional bobby dazzler of a stroke, a crisp on drive against Stuart Broad early on standing out. His 33rd Test hundred, it always seemed, was merely a matter of time, three minutes over four hours as it turned out. Just about spot on.
Kallis’s innings are memorable for being unmemorable. The board ticks inexorably on. When he batted with Mark Boucher in a sixth wicket stand of 87 the manner in which they ran and responded to different situations was almost telepathic
“He’s my next door neighbour as well as my friend so we know each other very well indeed,” said Boucher. “We know each other’s games and it’s good to bat with him when he gets in that mood, you can feel the aura around him.”
Boucher, as he put it, has measured his career by how players perform when the chips are down. They were down yesterday and he reacted accordingly, inspired by his neighbour at the other end.
It was a stand that England has to break, probably deserved to break considering the manner in which they had bowled in helpful conditions in the morning. Jimmy Anderson was a delight to watch and both his wickets were the products of vicious, lifting away swingers to left-handers.
“I’d say it was a very good decision to bowl first,” said Anderson putting the doubters in their place. “The ball was swinging round a lot in the conditions and with the rain around it made it a very easy decision.
“Anywhere between six and 10 wickets is what you should expect when you decide to bowl first but the decision was not based just on the morning conditions but the forecast for the rest of the week is pretty good and days two and three might be good to bat on that pitch.”
Like everybody else, he was in awe of the way in which Kallis batted and knows the key to the future of this match lies, for England, in his early removal. He did not look like he was moving anywhere.
“I probably haven’t come across anybody who’s as difficult to bowl at, he’s right up there,” said Anderson. “He’s very patient, plays the ball very late and on such a slow pitch it makes it very difficult to find an edge.