South Africa boosted by Jacques Kallis' return to action after three-month break

Jacques Kallis of South Africa looks ready and refreshed after taking a three-month break from cricket ahead of the Proteas' series against Pakistan in the UAE. Pawan Singh / The National
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ABU DHABI // If the Jacques Kallis we have seen until now was jaded, nothing can help Test bowlers.

The South Africa all-rounder has not played cricket since his stint with Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League finished in May.

He took his first significant break from the game after that and has returned, ominously for Pakistan’s bowlers, refreshed.

“It’s been probably what I needed,” Kallis said ahead of the first Test on Monday in Abu Dhabi. “After the IPL, I felt like I wanted a break. After 17-18 years, just felt I needed a good three months away, so its been a pleasurable period where I could refresh my mind.”

Kallis, who turns 38 on Wednesday, did not watch a ball of cricket in that time. He played a lot of golf, spent time with the family and generally did, what he said, normal people do.

But so ready did he look in the nets and the practice game in Sharjah, Graeme Smith said he felt Kallis had already played a whole season’s worth.

Alongside Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Kallis has been at the forefront of South Africa’s successes against spin. They will be tested again; Pakistan might play three spinners if, as Kallis said, the pitch is given to turn.

“As a team, we probably play spin as well as anybody,” he said. “Our record shows that. We’ve done well in the subcontinent for many a year now.

“Our players have good game plans against it and we’ve scored big runs and got good results. The guys are confident going in to play on these wickets.”

Murmurs from the Pakistan camp on Saturday suggested they were unhappy the surface looked a little seam-friendly, but that is unlikely to be the surface’s nature.

Whether or not they play three spinners or two with two fast bowlers, the focus still will be on Saeed Ajmal.

Although he picked up 10 wickets against them in Cape Town earlier this year, Ajmal has struggled against South Africa otherwise; in 132 overs spread across the three remaining Tests, he has only four wickets.

Not that he worries about things like that. Ajmal is too chirpy to let things like the identity of an opponent get in the way of his business of taking wickets.

“It’s nothing different, but I will try my best,” he said. “Every day is a new day for me and every match is a new match. I try my best in every match and want to perform in the same manner as I did in the last one without extra pressure.

“I will go into the Test with 100 per cent confidence. I have only one target and that is to take more and more wickets. Be it Smith or Kallis, I bowl as I bowl.”

In contrast to South Africa, Pakistan have a few decisions to make beyond their bowling attack. They are likely to give a Test debut to the opener Ahmed Shahzad, while they must also decide whether to persist with Asad Shafiq or bring in a left-hander in the middle in Umar Amin.