Durban: Jacques Kallis showed his class for one last time with a gutsy unbeaten 78 in his farewell match as South Africa gained a slight upperhand in the series-deciding second cricket Test against India here on Friday.
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The 38-year-old Kallis seemed on course for his 45th Test century with an exhibition of determined batsmanship as the hosts reached 299 for five before heavens opened up at the Kingsmead.
Giving Kallis company was nightwatchman Dale Steyn (0 batting) with the home team needing another 36 runs to overhaul India`s first innings total of 334.
While the seasoned Kallis anchored the innings facing 224 balls, AB de Villiers (74), Alviro Peterson (62) and Graeme Smith (47) were the other notable contributors for the Proteas. Hashim Amla (3) and JP Duminy (28) were other wickets to fall on a day which was largely dominated by the home team.
If Smith-Peterson duo`s opening stand of 103 laid the foundation of the South African innings, it was De Villiers and Kallis, who added 127 runs for the fourth wicket to keep the momentum going.
De Villiers again played a free-flowing innings hitting nine boundaries in his 117 ball knock-- one less than Kallis, who went about with a business like approach which was bereft of any emotion which one normally associates with occasions of such magnitude.
For India, left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja vindicated his captain`s selection with figures of four for 87 which included the scalps of Peterson, Smith and De Villiers.
Coming in at the fall of Amla`s wicket, Kallis was given a `Guard of Honour` by the Indian cricketers with rival skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni shaking hands with the legendary all-rounder.
However Kallis was a picture of concentration during his knock. It took him 25 deliveries to hit the first of his 10 boundaries of a Jadeja delivery. It was a lofted hit over mid-off and he repeated the shot of the very next ball.
A sweep of Rohit Sharma, a couple of back to back cover drives off Zaheer Khan showed that Kallis is in a mood to leave his white flannels on a high.
Apart from Jadeja, pacer Mohammad Shami (1-62) was the only other wickettaker in the South African innings so far.
Zaheer Khan (0-46) and Ishant Sharma (0-76) toiled hard, but failed to provide any breakthroughs. Rohit Sharma (0-22) was deployed as well, skipper MS Dhoni perhaps missing a second spinner on this dry pitch.
Kallis and Duminy added 58 runs for the fifth wicket as Dhoni delayed taking the second new ball. The skipper persisted with Jadeja and even brought on Rohit, and the break-through finally came.
Duminy was trapped leg before by Jadeja, in the 104th over, after making 28 runs off 82 balls, with four fours.
The morning session turned out to be a mixed one as South Africa scored 99 runs in that session but also lost three wickets.
Jadeja provided the breakthrough when Smith gave the spinner charge but his mistimed lifted shot was spectacularly caught by Shikhar Dhawan running back from his mid-wicket position. The Delhi lad judged it well before taking a catch and in the process took a tumble.
Smith`s 47 came off 81 balls with seven fours. Amla`s poor form in the series continued as he has now been bowled thrice in three innings in the series. This time it was fuller delivery from Mohammed Shami that held its line to beat Amla bat and hit the off-stump.
Peterson, who completed his seventh half-century in Test cricket looked in good touch but Jadeja finally got rid of him. It was a classical left-arm spinner`s delivery that was turning away from the right hander after pitching as the opener pushed hard at it.
The edge was taken by Murali Vijay in the slips as South Africa were suddenly reduced to 113 for three after being 103 for no loss. De Villiers and Kallis then took control of the situation as they slowly but surely built a partnership. The fourth wicket partnetship for 50 runs was completed in 16 overs.
Both Kallis and De Villiers stroked boundaries at will,
as the pace bowlers searched for some reverse swing. Zaheer was punished in particular, but De Villiers also showed aggressive intent against Jadeja, not letting the spinners to settle down.
De Villiers brought up his half-century in the 62nd over of the innings. It was his 34th fifty in 89 Tests.
The 100-run partnership came three overs later, as runs continued to come freely. In their eagerness to score quickly, South Africa almost lost a wicket, when the two batsmen were involved in a huge mix-up in the 69th over.
De Villiers nudged the ball and set off for a run, then stopped, but Kallis kept going. Zaheer failed to hit the stumps, as the first hour after lunch resulted in 55 runs.
Jadeja finally broke their partnership, in the 74th over, as a wicket finally came against the run of play. De Villiers prodded forward and was caught at first slip by Virat Kohli. He scored 74 runs off 117 balls, with nine fours.
Duminy was the next man in and saw away the remaining session before tea without any fuss. At the other end, with the crowd roaring for him, Kallis brought up his half-century in the 76th over, off 131 balls hitting nine fours. It was his 59th fifty in his 166th and final Test.
With in-form Faf du Plessis yet to come out as Steyn had been sent as nightwatchman and Robin Peterson also capable of scoring a few runs, South African team will be praying that a full day's play is possible so that they can take a substantial lead and try to bowl India out cheaply in the remaining available time.
If Kallis happens to score 22 runs more, he will join the likes of Greg Chappell, Aravinda de Silva, Saeed Anwar, who had scored centuries in their farewell Test matches.
Some like Mohammed Azharuddin, Murray Goodwin, Jason Gillespie got centuries in their final Test appearance but they never got a chance to officially retire announcement prior to the Test match.