End of day score. England 385 and 102-4. South Africa 637-2 declared. As I (Martin) suspected yesterday, South Africa put their large, hobnailed boot on England’s neck and only lifted it in order to kick the supine body in the shins, punch it in the stomach, and then box it around the ears (and you thought cricket was a gentle game!). South Africa continued where they left off at the end of the third day and simply batted . . . and batted . . . and batted . . . until they decided they had enough runs to roll England out and declared. The England bowlers had no answer as Hashim Amla ambled, flicked, glided, and stroked his way to a nonchalantly elegant 311 not out, and Jacques Kallis magnificently, imperiously marched to 182 not out, on the way getting his forty-fricking-third Test century.
I’m sorry: I love Sachin Tendulkar like a brother, and think he’s an unalloyed boon to the world of cricket. But can we just all admit right now that Jacques Kallis is the greatest player in the world today? Anyone who can bat like him and take almost 300 Test wickets for his country is quite simply giving South Africa an extra player and a half each time he steams over the horizon like an aircraft carrier in a skirmish between frigates and destroyers. Sure, he may not be the most elegant, sinewy player to pick up a bat (the unflappable Amla is a much more attractive craftsman) but Kallis goes about picking apart an attack like hyenas around a dead gazelle until there’s nothing left but the bones and the distant memory that once there was a living, breathing being. (That’s enough with the violent metaphors, Ed.) What’s even more amazing is that A. B. de Villiers, one of the most exciting and destructive batsmen in the world at the moment, didn’t even get a chance to bat. Can you imagine what might have happened if A. B. had come to the crease at 600-3 and decided to practice his Twenty20 skills on the English bowlers?
England, 252 runs behind, replied in their second innings as though they’d run into a brick wall, fallen back and been mugged by eleven angry Boers, before being thrown off a turret onto a herd of disgruntled rhinos below. (I said that’s enough, Ed.) England have been known to mount rearguard actions before. In fact they’ve made rather a specialty of it against South Africa. The final day’s play, however, will require the mother of all Dunkirk spirits. I see a South African win by ten wickets. Unless . . .