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Last Updated: Monday, 27 December, 2004, 13:58 GMT
Year comes full circle for Kallis
By Paul Grunill

During 2004, cricket fans around the world have seen South Africa's Jacques Kallis raise his bat aloft on numerous occasions.

Jacques Kallis
Kallis has a thirst for runs which shows no sign of diminishing

He began the year by extending an impressive run of form with centuries against West Indies at Cape Town and Centurion and another against New Zealand in Hamilton.

It meant he had reached three figures in five successive Tests, a record bettered only by perhaps the greatest of them all, Sir Don Bradman.

But superior in quality to them all was the innings of 162 which may be his last of the year and gave South Africa hope of levelling the current home series against a super confident England side.

"It's one of the best Test innings I have ever seen," said former England captain Bob Willis in the TV commentary box.

Batting on a difficult track which had seen England bowled out for 139 and his own side reduced to 118-6 in reply, Kallis never gave even a sniff of a chance.

And the stroke which carried to him to his century was typical of the man, a glorious off-drive for four from the bowling of Matthew Hoggard, played with the minimum of effort and the minimum of fuss.

Little has gone right for South Africa during 2004, a year that saw coach Eric Simons sacked and their tour of India overshadowed by controversy over whether team-mates Herschelle Gibbs and Nicky Boje would face police questioning should they travel there.

But Kallis has quietly gone about his business, and although his bowling has lacked its previous cutting edge, his batting has reached new heights.

v West Indies (h)
73, 130no, 130no - 2 games
v New Zealand (a)
92, 150no, 40, 71, 0, 1 - 3 games
v Sri Lanka (a)
59, 52no, 13, 3 - 2 games
v India (a)
37, 28no, 121, 55 - 2 games
v England (h)
0, 61, 162 - 2 games

The 29-year-old went into the second Test against England in Durban with a record for the year of 1,116 runs in 10 matches, at an average of 79.71.

And he soon eclipsed his previous best tally of 1,120 runs from 13 Tests in 2001.

By the end of his innings his aggregate had risen to 1,278, a South African record for a calendar year.

His overall career average now resides in the mid-50s, the mark which divides the truly great from the merely excellent.

And there is no doubt that among South African batsmen his is the wicket most highly prized by opposition bowlers.

After Kallis had taken 1,073 runs off his attack in four Tests and six one-day games in 2003-04, West Indies skipper Brian Lara - no mean perfomer himself - was moved to say of Kallis: "He was awesome.

"I went up to him and told him it was the greatest batting in a series I've ever experienced, for or against."

I've worked hard to improve one or two little things - I'm concentrating every ball and not pre-meditating
Jacques Kallis

Kallis' value was also recognised at South African cricket's annual awards ceremony in April, when he walked away with four trophies.

In a transitional period for the national team, it is vital that Kallis keeps on performing.

And providing he does not suffer any serious injury, there are plenty more years of international cricket ahead for Kallis, who made his debut in Durban as a 20-year-old in 1995 and only managed one double figure score in his first five Tests.

His hundred against England was his 18th in Tests.

It will be a major surprise if he has not overhauled Gary Kirsten's South African record totals of 7,289 runs and 21 centuries by the end of 2005.

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