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Atlas breaks a barrier

Aditya Iyer

Posted: Dec 19, 2010 at 0316 hrs IST
      

Centurion: For nearly two decades, he was the Chosen One from these shores. But on Saturday, Jacques Henry Kallis finally spoke to God. He pulled off the protective helmet, looked up into the vast blue sky, blinked the lids of his identically coloured eyes, before mumbling several words to someone up above. A fraction later, time stopped momentarily in the Supersport Park in Centurion.

While Kallis stood in the centre of not only the cricketing universe, but all of it — the atheists and the believers rose to their feet in sparkling unison, experiencing what many would later remember as a religious moment. (The closest it comes for a South African supporter on the cricket field at least). For nothing else but divine intervention can explain this miracle.

Nobody in the history of Test cricket – all 133 years of it – had to wait for as long as Kallis to score his first 200. The numbers are nothing short of staggering. Before the Centurion Test, Kallis had played 142 Test matches, faced 25, 548 balls, scored 11,449 runs and cracked 37 centuries, without a double ton. In the end, after stitching double century partnerships with both Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, and having faced 266 balls in the 242nd innings of his career, it happened against the best side in the world.

“I would have taken it against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe to be honest,” Kallis said at stumps on Saturday.

But first there was the annoying job of going past his previous highest score – an unbeaten 189 against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo. A muscular backfoot punch off Ishant Sharma took him to 190 – as South Africa simultaneously went past the 600-mark, but none of the 15,000 spectators seemed to really care about the team. The crowds didn’t go ecstatic, as 10 humongous runs still remained.

Several legends have fallen in the 190s, but the crowd took it up themselves to ensure Kallis isn't one of them, again. At 193, Sharma pitched one short and Kallis rocked back onto his heels and smacked the ball past backward point. Those iron-like fists stroked the crease as Jaydev Unadkat strolled in, and off a widish leg-side ball, Kallis glanced his blade around the leather to the fine-leg boundary. Jacques Kallis – 201*.

“I had a nerve-wrecking lunch. All I could think about were the 18 runs,” he added.

AB de Villiers – his ecstatic companion in the middle who had hit the fastest century by a South African — wrapped the mighty man in a warm embrace, as Kallis swung his mace around the Supersport Park, for at the Centurion, Kallis was a double-centurion. A golf-swing to the dressing room relayed the message to his team-mates on the balcony that the bunkers were finally cleared, before he thanked his creator.

Kallis also put an end to an overused and ridiculously subjective cricket-trivia question. Who is one of the greatest Test batsman to not score a double century in Test match cricket? “What's more satisfying than the double ton is the fact that I don't have to answer that question anymore,” Kallis claimed with a chuckle. After Saturday, probably Mike Atherton, Mark Waugh or Mohammad Azharuddin.

Not Jacques Henry Kallis.

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