International cricket has become poorer after the retirement of Jacques Kallis, one of the greatest cricketers ever to have graced the field. A legend in every sense of the word, ‘King’ Kallis has left us with memories of an illustrious career spanning nearly two decades.
The South African all-rounder quit Test cricket in December 2013, with a view to keep himself fit for the 2015 World Cup. However, a string of poor scores in the recent ODI series in Sri Lanka prompted him to call it a day eight months earlier than intended.
His gargantuan numbers in both Tests and ODIs underline the immense value that he brought to the South African side throughout his career. On the basis of his batting alone, Kallis would have had sealed his place in the pantheon of greats.
Blessed with excellent fitness and characterised by determination and dedication, he vowed the world with his all-round skills like no one else has in recent times.
He was always calm and understated and a true ambassador of the game.
Let us all admit that Jacques Kallis is the answer to the question “Who has been the greatest cricketer of the last twenty years?”
Here are some of Kallis’ most memorable performances in Test cricket in chronological order.
Stupendous all-round show – fourth Test v West Indies, Cape Town 1998-99
On his home ground, a 23 year-old Kallis starred with both bat and ball to help his country win by 149 runs. He came in at 0/1 in the first innings and scored a sedate 110 in a game-changing 235-run stand for the third wicket with Daryll Cullinan.
With their team trailing by 194 on the first innings, the West Indian bowlers rocked the hosts’ top order in the second dig, but Kallis came to the rescue again, scoring an unbeaten 88 to help set a target of 421.
Kallis rounded off by taking 5/90 to finish with a total of 198 runs and seven wickets in the match. He topped the run charts in the five-match series with a tally of 485, as South Africa cruised to a 5-0 triumph.
Digging in at Bourda – first Test v West Indies, Georgetown 2004-05
South Africa were in real danger of being beaten by an understrength West Indian side when they were made to follow on 355 runs in arrears (WI 543/5, SA 188) with around 160 overs remaining.
Kallis, who had failed to score in the first innings, came out to bat late on the fourth day with his team under pressure at 68/2. He went on to bat resolutely for the whole of the fifth day, finishing on an unbeaten 109 in nearly seven hours to help South Africa escape with a draw.
The King of Karachi – first Test v Pakistan, Karachi 2007-08
In more than fifty years, Pakistan had lost just once at their fortress of the National Stadium in Karachi, and that was against a Graham Thorpe-inspired England in utter darkness in 2000-01.
Seven years later, Kallis ensured a second defeat for the hosts with a masterly batting performance. South Africa’s first innings total of 450 was built around his graceful 155.
Leading by 159, South Africa were three down for 43 in the second innings before Kallis came to the rescue, this time making an unbeaten 100. South Africa went on to win the game by 160 runs and the series 1-0.
The first double-century – first Test v India, Centurion 2010-11
It seems odd that Kallis took fifteen years and 37 hundreds to before registering his first double-century. After a beleaguered Indian side were bundled out for 136, Kallis took centre-stage with a unbeaten 201 off just 270 balls with 15 fours and 5 sixes. He reached his century off 130 balls, the fastest of his Test career.
He put on 230 for the third wicket with his favourite batting partner Hashim Amla and a further 224 for the fourth wicket with A.B de Villiers as the Proteas piled up 620/4.
Needless to say, India were routed – by an innings and 25 runs.
Vintage Kallis at Newlands – third Test v India, Cape Town 2010-11
The series was tied at 1-1 with all to play for at Newlands. Kallis came in at a wobbly 34/2 in the first innings and was last out for a solid 161, guiding his team to 362. India took a two-run lead thanks to a Sachin Tendulkar hundred, which meant that the game was now a second-innings shootout. Harbhajan Singh rattled South Africa’s top order and early on the fourth day, the hosts were tottering at 64/4, which then became 130/6.
But amidst all this, Kallis stood unperturbed. All he needed was a willing ally, and his wish was answered by his old mate Mark Boucher. The two added 103 for the seventh wicket to rescue their team. Kallis added a further hundred-plus runs with the tail and he remained unbeaten on 109 out of 341, ensuring a hard-fought draw.
Protea fire in the belly – second Test v Australia, Adelaide 2012-13
This was undoubtedly Faf du Plessis’ match, but one wonders whether the remarkable escape would have been possible without Kallis’ heroic contributions. Kallis had just picked up two wickets in the first innings when he pulled a hamstring and was forced off the field. Australia smashed 550 at breakneck speed and then had South Africa at 250/7.
Kallis strode in at number nine and scored a gutsy 58 to help trim the deficit to 162. In the second innings, chasing 430, South Africa were 45/4 and then 134/5 with du Plessis desperately seeking a partner.
Kallis rose to the challenge again, this time making 46 from number seven and adding 99 for the sixth wicket while battling real pain and under palm-sweating tension. The draw ensured that South Africa were able to win the rubber in the final Test in Perth.
The swansong hundred – second Test v India, Durban 2013-14
Kallis is among the fortunate few to have scored a hundred in his last Test innings. In a series-deciding clash, Kallis’ patient 115 in six-and-a-half hours helped South Africa score 500 after being 113/3 in reply to India’s 334.
He added 127 for the fourth wicket with A.B de Villiers to put the innings back on track. Kallis had the sweet satisfaction of starring in his team’s victory in his final Test appearance as South Africa cruised home by ten wickets.
Kallis in numbers
Tests (1995-2013) – 166 matches (fourth-highest), 280 innings, 13289 runs (third-highest) @ 55.37, 45 hundreds (second-highest), 58 fifties, best of 224, 292 wickets @ 32.65, 200 catches.
ODIs (1996-2014) – 328 matches, 314 innings, 11579 runs @ 44.36, 17 hundreds, 86 fifties, 273 wickets @ 31.79, 131 catches
There might never be another of his kind. Thanks for the memories, Jacques Kallis.