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We need 100-run lead: AB

Calcutta: There was a time on Saturday, the third day of the ongoing Durban Test, when South Africa lost three quick wickets and it appeared as if the Indians might just tighten the noose around the hosts. But then Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers stood like a shield to deny the Indians.

At the end of the rain-curtailed day, South Africa were 299 for five, just 35 away from India’s first innings total. Kallis was batting on 78, after patiently facing 224 balls. De Villiers, however, was his usual fluent self. Before being dismissed by Ravindra Jadeja, De Villiers scored 74 off 117 deliveries, hitting nine boundaries.

Kallis and De Villiers shared a 127-run partnership and after the day’s play, the younger batsman was nostalgic while speaking about his senior, who is playing his farewell Test. But before that, De Villiers stressed on the fact that the game is “very much in balance”.

“The game is very much in balance after the last wicket that fell today (Saturday). We need a good lead because we want to bat only once here. We will be looking forward to a lead of at least a hundred runs... We are not far away from that… We are only 130-odd runs away. Of course the wicket is doing a bit and that obviously is making scoring difficult,” De Villiers said.

“There is a lot of character left in our batting… Hopefully we will come out on Sunday with a positive mindset and post a score that would help us win the series. I’m expecting a big day on Sunday,” he added.

Speaking on the pitch, he said: “The pitch is deteriorating and there is a lot of rough patches on the wicket, and the worst thing that can happen to a team is to bat last on this track. So it’s a matter of working hard to score every run and get a good enough lead.”

De Villiers spoke at length on Kallis. “I personally have a lot of fond memories of batting with Jacques… I scored my first Test hundred with him at the other end and I was there when he scored both his double hundreds. I have really enjoyed whenever I have batted with him,” De Villiers said.

He went a step forward when he said: “I don’t know what others would say, but I believe I wouldn’t have been here without people like Jacques… I had said the same things about Mark Boucher as well...

“I would like to thank him for all the advice, on and off the field, throughout my career. I can only congratulate him for an amazing Test career and I hope that he comes out on Sunday and scores a really big one.”

Recollecting Kallis’ first double century, De Villiers said: “I remember the moment when he got his first double hundred… That was at the Supersport Park in Centurion (against India)… Such a brilliant innings it was. He really earned his first double hundred, even though he had scored so many memorable knocks before that for South Africa. We all knew that the one milestone he didn’t have at that particular moment was a double hundred. I was very nervous being at the other end. That’s why when he actually reached two hundred, we all were very happy and excited.”

Like an ardent fan of Kallis, De Villiers said: “Watching Jacques play is like… As good as it gets. Everyone feels that when left-handers hit cover-drives, they are really elegant. But Jacques is one of those (right-handed) guys who can really play elegant cover-drives. He is probably the only player in the world who makes it look like a left-hander cover-driving. He is a class apart.

“You can have the technique, but you have to execute the shot to perfection. He played some lovely cover-drives today, especially the two back-to-back ones off Zaheer Khan. The first one was hit on the back foot and the second on the front foot… It’s not easy playing these shots on this wicket,” De Villiers said.