Centuries by veterans Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were the foundation of South Africa’s commanding 268 for three on the third day of the first test against New Zealand in Dunedin on Friday.
Smith, a celebrated member of the gritty left-hander’s club, fought his way to 115, his 24th test century and a wonderful display of determination and his own highly-effective version of skill.
Kallis was still at the crease when stumps was called, having stroked his way to 107 not out. Together, the pair had added 200 for the third wicket in five hours and given South Africa a commanding lead of 233 runs with seven wickets in hand.
Smith was out eight overs before the close, when his previously sure judgement deserted him against the second new ball and he inside-edged Doug Bracewell back into his stumps.
Kallis notched his 42nd test century in the next over, needing 219 deliveries, 18 more than Smith, and he batted through to stumps and will lead South Africa’s efforts to set a target on the fourth day. On a pitch that is still good for batting, the visitors will be wanting some sort of insurance in the form of a target that allows them to keep fielders in attacking positions.
South Africa had begun their second innings trailing by 35 runs and were in trouble on 47 for two when Smith and Kallis came together. The runs would come at a measured rate as they built a crucial partnership, refusing to chase the many deliveries New Zealand tried to tempt them with well outside off stump.
The admirable Bracewell, who finished the day with three for 53 in 18 overs, had made the double strike at the top of the order by removing Alviro Petersen (25) and Hashim Amla (2) in the 12th over.
Petersen was driving at the ball with reckless abandon, but his good fortune was only on loan until he shovelled a full ball from Bracewell to Tim Southee at mid-off.
Amla fell to an outstanding catch by Martin Guptill, plucking the ball millimetres off the turf as he dived one-handed to his right at second slip, but New Zealand would have to wait a long time for their next wicket.
There were no frills to Smith’s innings, but he forced New Zealand to bowl where he wanted them to, the Black Caps seemingly having no alternative to their plan of bowling wide of off-stump to the beefy left-hander.
Kallis was coming off a duck and had a tricky start, but batted with an immense calm, stroking the ball to the boundary on 15 occasions and to all corners of the University Oval.
Trent Boult had begun the day by hammering Vernon Philander for 22 runs – three sixes and a four – from the last four balls of the second over to finish on 33 not out and give New Zealand a first-innings lead they could only have dreamed about on 135 for five shortly before tea on the second day.
The brilliance of Smith and Kallis has now consigned that awful start to the day to distant memory.