DURBAN, South Africa (AP):
The retiring Jacques Kallis had one last say as his unbeaten 78 carefully guided South Africa to 299-5 in the second Test against India yesterday, and gave the home crowd hope of a farewell century from the country's most significant cricketer.
Playing his final Test of an 18-year career, Kallis typically anchored the first-innings reply to India's 334 as the Proteas cut the deficit to 35 by the end of the third day at Kingsmead.
The 38-year-old's 127-run partnership with AB de Villiers (74) for the fourth wicket was the platform for South Africa as they search for a fitting send-off for their most successful batsman ever and one of the game's great allrounders.
"The way he committed to every single shot was brilliant," teammate Alviro Petersen said. "It's not a guy you think was playing his last Test match. It looks like he's in the prime of his career."
Kallis also had a nervous period, though, when he was in the 40s and he spent an agonisingly long time on 49. But he came through it to slice a drive to the boundary for four and reach his half-century, and then removed his helmet and lifted his bat to the team dressing room and the crowd as if he was celebrating a century.
Kallis faced 224 balls and hit 10 fours after coming in to a guard of honour from India's fielders at the ground where he made his debut in 1995. The team hopes he goes on to a much bigger score to help top-ranked South Africa's hopes of winning the second and final match and taking the series against its closest rival in the test rankings.
"Jacques Kallis' innings is going to be key for us tomorrow," Petersen said.
Spinner Ravindra Jadeja took 4-87 on his recall to the Indian line-up to challenge Kallis for the attention. India's most threatening bowler extracted turn and bounce from the generally placid pitch to remove openers Graeme Smith (47) and Petersen (62), as well as danger man De Villiers and JP Duminy.
India is not out of contention and will rely on Jadeja to further exploit an ageing surface on day four. Only Kallis resisted the spinner throughout after the No. 4 batsman made his way out to the middle an hour into the first session.
"Obviously we need him out because he is a very key player. He can strike the ball very well all around the ground," Jadeja said.
After acknowledging a standing ovation from fans, and shaking hands with India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kallis constructed his 59th half-century and approached his 45th career century. He already has the second-highest number of centuries in Tests after India great Sachin Tendulkar and needs 115 runs in Durban to go past Rahul Dravid and third on the all-time runscorers list.
Kallis appreciated the guard of honour, but pushed emotion to one side to share the big century stand with De Villiers and settle South Africa, and he ultimately put his team in charge after it was tottering on 113-3 as he arrived.
Slow left-armer Jadeja had the South Africans in that early trouble after they were comfortable at 82 without loss overnight, removing Smith and Petersen soon after their century stand. A ball before Petersen fell, seamer Mohammed Shami bowled Hashim Amla.
But Kallis hit Jadeja for two fours over mid-off early in his innings to stamp his authority, then allowed De Villiers to attack for much of their partnership as the in-form wicketkeeper-batsman, off a century in the first test in Johannesburg, hit nine fours in his 74 off 117 balls.
De Villiers fell to Jadeja for India's only breakthrough of the second session before Kallis lifted the crowd off their seats to applaud him - maybe for the last time - with his square drive behind point for his half-century.
"I thought he played the perfect innings from the situation we were in," Petersen said. "All that pressure in your last Test to really stand tall once more."