We were into the third over of the day. Dale Steyn worked a Ravindra Jadeja delivery towards the midwicket region. And the absence of a fielder prompted the bowler to sprint and fetch the ball. A comical exchange of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ ensued, and Steyn came within touching distance of Jacques Kallis right in the middle of the pitch. Sanity prevailed, though, and they returned to their respective ends. After the ball was declared dead, Steyn sheepishly walked towards his partner, apologised for the mess and gave him a hug. Kallis, then on 82, saw the lighter side of things.
Twelve overs later, the duo hugged again. This time, it was about joy, revelry and the perfect end to a storied Test career. Yes, the man who never got his due had completed a deserving hundred –– his 45th in Test cricket. And by the time he was out for a match-defining 115, South Africa were exactly 50 runs ahead of India’s 334.
For the countless time, Kallis weathered the storm before taking his team to a position of strength. The rest –– Steyn (44), Faf du Plessis (43) and Robin Peterson (61) –– more than chipped in as South Africa finished with 500 for a lead of 166. India batted out the last session on Sunday, but lost openers Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay without too many on the board. At stumps on Day Four, the visitors were at 68/2. Cheteshwar Pujara (32*), Virat Kohli (11*) and the rest will have to bat out of their skins on Day Five. Trailing by 98 runs, India will have to put up some show or pray for rain.
Vijay edged Vernon Phialnder to the cordon for six before Robin Peterson claimed Dhawan with a delivery that deserved to be smashed over midwicket. That’s what Dhawan did. But then, he didn’t account for du Plessis, who took a catch for the ages. Jumping as high as he could, du Plessis plucked the ball out of thin air with one hand, landed on his knees and rested on his back before realising what he had done. Dhawan’s forgettable tour ended with returns of 12, 0, 13 & 15 and 29 & 19.
Earlier, resuming on 299/5, Kallis and nighwatchman Steyn batted for the better part of the first session even as MS Dhoni continued to operate with a rugged old ball.
Kallis became Ravindra Jadeja’s fifth wicket when, in a bid to break the shackles, he top-edged a wild sweep to MS Dhoni. Kallis consumed 316 deliveries, lasted 393 minutes and struck 13 fours in all. He also nudged ahead of Rahul Dravid to third position in the all-time list of run-getters.
What followed was even more poignant. Kallis soaked in the moment, acknowledged everyone’s cheers and went back a happy man. Standing on the stairs leading to the dressing room, skipper Graeme Smith kissed him on the head and ushered him in.
Kallis’s dismissal didn’t help India get the proverbial foot in the door. After scoring at just over three an over in the first session, the hosts took off after the hour-long lunch break (it had rained for a bit). Peterson hit a largely off-colour Zaheer Khan for fours on either side as South Africa scored 12 runs off the first over after resumption. Then, du Plessis joined the party by coming down the wicket and slapping Jadeja over mid-off. There was more caning. An over from Ishant Sharma lasted eight deliveries and yielded 12 runs.
And 64 overs after it was due, the umpires forced Dhoni to take the new ball. The batsmen continued to make merry. They motored on, bringing up the 400 and then 450 in no time.
Understandably, the lead also swelled. And by the time Peterson fell to Zaheer, he had scored 61 off 52 balls. His dismissal signalled tea and South Africa were bowled out for 500 seven deliveries after the break. Jadeja, who bowled 58.2 overs in all, finished with 6/138. The rest were uninspiring.