NAGPUR: The experienced Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla struck unbeaten centuries as South Africa recovered from two early jolts to take control of the first cricket Test against India here today.
Kallis (159 not out) notched up his 34th Test century and found an able ally in Amla (115 not out) as the duo put on a marathon 285-run partnership to steer the visitors to a comfortable 291 for two at close on the opening day.
It was a remarkable recovery for the South Africans, who were reeling at a precarious six for two within the first half an hour of the contest with pace spearhead Zaheer Khan claiming both the wickets.
But that turned out to be the only moments of success for the injury-hit Indians as South Africans not only fought their way back but were in a position of strength on what appeared to be a good batting track at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium.
The 34-year-old Kallis paced his innings brilliantly as he mixed caution with aggression, while his younger partner Amla played the sheet anchor’s role to perfection en route to his eighth century.
India went into the game with two debutants in S Badrinath and Wriddhiman Saha after last-minute injury setbacks to Rohit Sharma, who was incidentally a cover for VVS Laxman.
Kallis equalled the tallies of legends Sunil Gavaskar and Brian Lara with his 34th hundred and with Amla he put on the best-ever partnership for any wicket.
South Africa made a shocking start after captain Graeme Smith won the toss as they lost the skipper and his opening partner Ashwell Prince to the pace of Zaheer Khan within the first half an hour’s play.
But a determined Kallis, who faced 290 balls and struck 13 fours and two sixes, and his more sedate partner Amla (225 balls, 11 fours) buckled down to the task of repairing the early damage with a determined and concentrated effort.
The duo’s unbeaten stand of 285 runs in 512 balls also bettered the previous best between the two countries of 268 for the second wicket by Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid.
Dravid is missing this match because of a broken jaw.
This was Kallis’ third century against India, and significantly all in the latter’s backyard, as he and Amla laid the foundation for a big South Africa first innings total by batting almost the entire day.
Kallis, playing in his 136th Test and 12th against the home team, was the more aggressive during the stand in which the 26-year-old Amla, who cracked his second ton against India, eschewed risk totally till he reached his 30s.
Neither pace, in the form of Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, nor the spin of Harbhajan Singh, Amit Mishra and Virender Sehwag troubled the duo barring the odd occasion as they denied the hosts a wicket for the better part of the day.
South Africa 1st innings:
Graeme Smith b Khan 6
Ashwell Prince c Dhoni b Khan 0
Hashim Amla batting 115
Jacques Kallis batting 159
Extras: (B-4, LB-2, NB-5) 11
Total: (for 2 wkts in 91 overs) 291
Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-6.
Bowling: Zaheer Khan 20-5-67-2, Ishant Sharma 17-2-44-0,
Harbhajan Singh 21-0-81-0, Amit Mishra 26-2-71-0, Virender