The New Year Castle Test match and a century from Jacques Kallis have become virtually synonymous events.
His latest edition at Sahara Park Newlands on Sunday was his seventh against England and his sixth at this ground. Most of his centuries at this ground have played an important part in laying the foundation for eventual victory and the good news for the Proteas is that he was still at the crease at the close when bad light halted play six overs early.
At that stage the Proteas had recovered from an unsteady 127/5 to a much more healthy 279/6. Kallis’ contribution was an unbeaten 108 off 188 balls with 11 fours and along the way he had shared important partnerships of 76 for the fourth wicket with AB de Villiers, 89 for the sixth with Mark Boucher and an unbroken 63 for the seventh with Dale Steyn who seemed to revel in his promotion to the No. 8 position.
It was a day on which the Proteas never quite managed to seize the initiative with each major partnership being broken at a critical moment. Boucher nevertheless felt that the day finished 50:50 and that a total in the region of 340 would be an excellent effort after the side had been sent into bat under testing overhead conditions.
It was Kallis’ 33rd Test century which puts him in outright fifth position on the all-time list and just one shy of two of the game’s greatest players, Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara. Ahead of them are Ricky Ponting (38) and Sachin Tendulkar (43).
He now has the chance to regroup overnight and take the lower order through the all important second new ball which is only into its fourth over. If he is able to again dominate the strike then the Proteas will clearly be capable of building something substantial.
It was also a landmark day for Boucher who scored his 1 000th Test match run against England and is less than 100 runs away from 5 000 runs overall. He could complete a notable double later in the match if he can make two dismissals to take his record against England to the three figure mark.
As always the Boucher-Kallis partnership was a contrast of styles which probably explains why they bat so well together. Kallis is always the man you would choose to bat for your life while Boucher excels on the counter-attack. This was an important role as the Proteas needed somebody to take the attack to the outstanding Graeme Swann and give him something to think about.
Swann still finished the day with two key wickets (De Villiers and Duminy off successive balls) but at least he was not able to dictate terms to the extent he had done in the first two Castle Tests.
Jimmy Anderson was probably the pick of the England attack on the day and the second new ball battle between him and Kallis will be one of the big points of the second day.