These batsmen did it before Jacques Kallis
Sachin Tendulkar might have missed a memorable farewell century by just 26 runs at his home ground, but one of his most legendary contemporary Jacques Kallis has done it at his happy-hunting ground, Kingsmead.
Although the Cape Town-born cricketer missed the opportunity of scripting his final hurrah at his home ground, Newlands, as the series was reduced to a two-match Test series (thanks to the ego-tussle between the BCCI & Cricket South Africa), he has been the real king of Kingsmead, probably the most famous after the 18th century Zulu ruler King Shaka. In his 18-year long illustrious career, the talismanic all-rounder has scored more Test runs (1266) and centuries (five) at this ground in Durban.
Known for his penchant for reaching milestones, the milestone man of South African cricket has smashed his 45th Test ton to become the 31st cricketer to score a century in his last Test.
English cricketer Henry Wood was the first ever Test cricketer to score a century in his last Test when he scored an unbeaten 134 against South Africa at Cape Town on March 19, 1892. Incidentally, Wood’s farewell century was his only first-class hundred and that was also the first century by a wicketkeeper in Test matches.
Since then, a number of batsmen joined that elite list for over a century but the first South African to reach the landmark was shot put thrower-cum-professional boxer-turned-cricketer Pieter van der Bijl, who incidentally made his mark at the very ground which, after 74 years would witness yet another farewell ton by a Proteas batsman. The Rhodes scholar with a modest Oxford University career, scored 125 in the first innings of the historic Timeless Test against England at Kingsmead in 1939. The opener had a chance of making it an incredible double in the second innings but he fell three shy of yet another century in his last game.
Due to World War II, the world of Test cricket never saw Van der Bijl bat again. What Van der Bijl couldn’t do was actually done once in the history of Test cricket and that too at Kingsmead. England’s Charles Albert George Russell capped off his 10-Test career with a brilliant double of 140 & 111 in the two innings of his last Test, against South Africa in 1923. In the process, he also claimed the distinction of being the first Englishman to make two hundreds in a Test. The Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1923 decided to end his career after accomplishing this unique and unparalleled feat to date.
Barry Richards and Lee Irvine were the other two South Africans before Kallis to have the rare record of scoring a century in their respective last Tests. Incidentally, both the batsmen reached the mark in the same Test, against Australia at Port Elizabeth on March 1970, before their flourishing careers ended due to South Africa’s isolation because of their erstwhile apartheid policies. Richards played a magnificent innings of 126 to catapult his all-time Test average to an astronomically high 72.57, second only to Sir Don Bradman’s 99.94 while Irvine made his superb 102 on his 26th birthday.
Three Indians are in the exclusive list with Vijay Merchant being the first to end his Test career after reaching the three-figure mark in an innings. With a Bradmanesque first-class average of 71, the Indian opener smashed a superlative knock of 154 against England at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla in 1951 before walking down the sunset boulevard. His namesake Vijay Manjrekar had also scored a century in his farewell Test against New Zealand in 1965 at Chennai (then Madras). Mohammed Azharuddin is the third Indian in the list as he ripped apart the Proteas bowling to score a masterly 102 in the second innings at Bangalore in 2000. That was his 99th Test before the ghosts of match fixing came haunting the former captain and brought the curtains down on his career.
Before Kallis, former England captain Nasser Hussain was the last cricketer to say goodbye with a century — an unbeaten 103 — at Lord’s in May 2004.
. Suvam Pal is a Johannesburg-based journalist