DURBAN, Dec 29 (Reuters) - A century by Jacques Kallis on Sunday in what is likely to be his last test innings emphasised his status among the cricketing greats and ensured a fitting farewell after the South African’s sudden decision to end his 18-year test career.
His 115 in South Africa’s first innings against India moved him up to third place on the list of test run scorers and helped his country to a 166-run lead on the fourth day of the second test at Kingsmead.
The innings characterised the qualities of the beefy 38-year-old - understated, stoic and determined, but also saw a brief display of emotion from a player better known for his dour demeanour.
He allowed himself a brief teary moment as the Durban crowd handed him a lengthy standing ovation as he reached his 45th test ton - a figure bettered only by the 51 scored by the also recently retired Sachin Tendulkar.
Kallis, soon after, passed Rahul Dravid on the list of test run scorers but the moment went unrecognised at the stadium.
Kallis, who went out to skyed top edge off spinner Ravindra Jadeja, is a single run ahead of Dravid’s career tally of 13,288 runs and now third behind Tendulkar (15,921 runs) and Ricky Ponting (13,378) in the list of top test batsmen.
The South African’s test figures - including 292 wickets and 200 catches - stand him out as the best all-rounder of all time although Gary Sobers of the West Indies remains the sentimental choice of most affectionados.
That has much to do with the fact Kallis lacked a demonstrative personality to go with his fullsome array of stroke play and ability to dictate the course of a match.
His test career started slowly and it was only in the winter of his career that his own country’s supporters seemed to warm to him.
“There were times when I could have dominated more. But for years I tried to bat through an innings. When our batting line-up became stronger, I had the opportunity to be more aggressive, especially in test cricket,” he told the authors Ali Bacher and David Williams in a new book on South African cricket.
Kallis surprised with his Christmas Day decision to end his career after 166 tests and ahead of a three-test home series with Australia in February, where South Africa seek to emphasise their status as the top ranked test nation against the Ashes winners.
Kallis now turns his focus to the limited overs game, with his only remaining ambition being success in the one-day World Cup, where South Africa have often been among the favourites but picked up a tag of ‘chokers’ after several dramatic failures.
“I still have a lot of hunger to push South Africa to that World Cup in 2015 if I am fit and performing. The last two years specifically have been a memorable journey with an exceptional group of cricketers,” he said in his retirement statement. (Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Justin Palmer; email@example.com +27828257807 Messaging firstname.lastname@example.org)