Master at work brightens a dull grey day

Jon Swift

Jon Swift

It was one of those grey Johannesburg days where the pewter skies hang heavy in the heavens and the hours drag interminably towards the dark.

But true to tradition, the gathering – albeit thinned substantially by the festive season – prepared to watch Jaques Kallis begin the final march towards what would be his 45th Test century.

Dave the Silent, an engineering fellow with a penchant for precision, has always been intrigued by the almost ponderous way in which the greatest all-rounder of his era has weaved his regal path through the annals of the game.

“Well,” he said as Kallis unleashed yet another drive across the Kingsmead turf and the Indian fieldsmen yet again gave chase to the boundary, “isn’t it something special to watch a man in complete control of what he is doing”?

There was no counter debate on this point; what there was of the gathering were united in almost willing the man who had taken centre stage in Durban on to three figures.

“But,” continued the Silent One, “what I fail to understand is why he would choose to retire now.

“Surely, with the Tests against the Australians coming up early in the New Year, he could have held off for another couple of months. Why now?”

It was a question that many South African cricket fans were asking and that Kallis himself had not fully answered.

But after resuming at 78 not out at the end of the third day of the Test against the Indians, there was a look of inevitability about the century arriving, though a nagging fear that somehow the cricket deities might just cruelly deny him.

It was left to the Arithmetically-challenged Golfer to cobble together some rational reason behind that sudden decision on the eve of the second Test, to call it a day.

“The man is 38 after all,” said the Arithmetically-challenged One. “He has more T-shirts for the places he’s been and the things he has done in the game than a department store.

“And anyway, do you not find it symbolic that he has chosen to end his international career at Kingsmead where it all started 18 years ago against England?”

The Silent One remained unconvinced. “Firstly,” he said, “age should not be a barrier, just the effect of the aging process on ability … and I see little sign of that in the way he has played this match.

“Secondly, Kallis has never struck me as a sentimental type, though that may just be a facade, and I could well be wrong on either count.”

One short of 50 deliveries into the day’s play, Kallis finally reached the magic mark with a little nudge to mid-on and a characteristic amble to the opposite crease.

There was a moment of utter silence before the cheers rang out. The circle had been completed and suddenly, the grey day had brightened.




today in print

today in print