Monday 29 October 2007 

Kallis Wins Battle Of Returning Stars As Proteas Prevail

To no-one’s great surprise, Pakistan’s Mohammad Yousuf was named as man of the series, and Jacques Kallis as the top performer for the tour after a rare thing in modern cricket: an exciting one-day international that went down to the wire. South Africa held their nerve to take a 14-run victory in Lahore and added a 3-2 series win to the 1-0 Test win earlier in the month.

Kallis also won a brand new car for his trouble, which, if he were so inclined he might choose to give it to his mate Mark Boucher, short of a few bob after he was fined 60% of his earnings in the Twenty20 World Cup for allegedly trying to embarrass Cricket South Africa by speaking out in support of Kallis after the all-rounder was left out of the Twenty20 World Cup squad.

What’s done is done, but imagine how embarrassed they would have been had Kallis carried out a threat to retire in the wake of that decision? Without Kallis, South Africa are a different proposition and he played a huge role in both series wins in Pakistan. As evidence, consider his 421 runs in two Tests including three centuries, and a crucial knock of 86 in the decisive one-day international in Lahore.

Yet he was not the only man coming back from the disappointment of being left out of the Twenty20 World Cup. While South African eyes were fixed on Kallis’ big return to the international stage, Pakistani fans were no doubt relieved when Mohammad Yousuf was able to free himself from his Indian Cricket League (ICL) contract and make himself available once again for national duty.

And, like Kallis, how he delivered. Unable to play in the first Test, he scored 25 and then an unbeaten 63 in the second Test. His coolness under pressure enabled Pakistan to think about making a genuine attempt at a world record run chase when he was at the crease until Younus Khan and Inzamam-ul-Haq were dismissed.

Whereas Kallis merely threatened to think about his future when he was dropped, Yousuf wasn’t hanging about, joining the ICL 13 days after his name did not appear alongside those who would ensure Pakistan finished as tournament runners-up. It looked as if his international career was over before some last minute negotiations saved the Pakistan Cricket Board from further embarrassment.

The PCB had good reason to coax Yousuf out of ‘retirement’, and in the one-day series against South Africa, despite the eventual loss, he was outstanding, hitting 286 runs in five matches, which included three fifties and a century. The turning point of the final match, and the series, was when he was dismissed for 53 in Lahore. Six wickets and twenty runs later, the series was lost and Kallis, who had earlier outscored everybody with a sublime 86 proved the difference between the two sides.

Pakistan may be sick of the sight of him but at the same time it is interesting to draw the parallels between Kallis and Yousuf (purely as batsmen). Both have the soundest of techniques, and the ability to bat for long periods of time. Both have courted controversy throughout their careers, yet both have won and saved countless games for their countries. Both average just shy of 57 in Tests, and over 40 in one-day internationals and both were left out of the Twenty20 World Cup and both came back stronger than ever.

To beat Pakistan or South Africa, you have to keep them quiet – Pakistan were unable to pin down Kallis early in the tour and paid the penalty. While Yousuf enjoyed his purple patch Pakistan looked set to win the one-dayers before Kallis found his form at the last.

They will meet again, of that there is no doubt, but for now Yousuf heads to India, who have dropped their ‘wall’, Rahul Dravid, while South Africa return home to face a New Zealand side that collapsed twice against an Invitational XI last week. Expect Kallis’ victorious return to the side to continue while for Yousuf, more of the same in India would give Pakistan every chance of victory over their arch-rivals.

John Pennington
© Cricket World 2007