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The Importance of a Partnership
13 Nov 2007
By: Paul Wood

Two Test matches were won recently thanks in the main to two outstanding partnerships. In the South Africa against New Zealand fixture, in form Jacques Kallis combined with Hashim Amla to rescue their side from a potentially perilous position into a match winning one.

Over the other side of the world in Brisbane, Australia were taking on Sri Lanka and already sitting in a fairly comfortable position when Michael Clarke joined Mike Hussey at the crease, this combination ensured that Sri Lanka were to be under immense pressure to register some serious runs in their first innings, a feat that was beyond the sub-continental side.

Amla and Kallis does not sound like a partnership that will have droves of spectators flooding through the gates in anticipation of Twenty20 style entertainment, yet this duo stuck to the old fashioned virtues of building an innings based first and foremost on solid defence and patience.

It was a testing time for the pair when Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith fell early, Shane Bond and Chris Martin were causing problems, and while South Africa at this point had an overall lead of 128, they were teetering on 20-2 with New Zealand tails up. This partnership still had to overcome the wily Daniel Vettori before any backslapping could take place.

It was to be a fascinating passage of play, in the traditional Test match sense.

Kallis's form of late has been of the highest standard, in Pakistan he made three centuries in four innings (he made 59 in his other innings). Amla is less certain of his place in the South African line up, and after failing in the first innings his heart must have skipped a beat when he edged Shane Bond to Brendon McCullum in the second innings when he was only on two. On such pieces of fortune cricketing careers are kickstarted, as Amla's appeared to be here, with a series of impressive punches down the ground, and his famed flicks through the legside that bore testament to his Asian roots.

Kallis remained unflustered, focused and determined to instigate a healthy lead for his side in his own style. His classical drives were evident as were his textbook pulls, but of course you cannot unload such orthodox devastation without the back up of a watertight defence.

A harsh evaluation, by many so called experts, of Kallis's batsmanship is his tendency to remain in first gear. Here he demonstrated his ability to pressurise the bowlers as he became the dominant batsman, exemplified by the 51 balls it took him to move from 100 to 150. He was prepared to take a risk in search of quick runs, and with the elusive double century in sight he sadly nicked one through to the keeper.

New Zealand were hindered by the injury to Bond, but do not let that detract from the match winning contributions of this South African pair. The partnership had taken their side to 350-3 (the next highest partnership in the entire game was 72), and consequently this Test was heading only one way.

Hussey and Clarke enjoyed a more relaxed type of atmosphere at the start of their vigil with the scoreboard showing 216-3, that was thanks to the foundations laid by Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting and Matty Hayden. By the time Hussey was snaffled by the outspoken Marvan Atapattu, 245 more runs had been accumulated on an admittedly fantastic 'Gabba' track.

Of course even with an excellent batting track, things can never be taken for granted when the opposition possess a threat such as the mercurial Muttiah Muralitharan. Even without the eccentric Lasith Malinga, captain Mahela Jayawardene could boast an attack that would have many a nation exchanging envious glances.

The Sri Lankan attack worked exceptionally hard to make life difficult for the two Michael's, and there were lengthy periods of play where the Aussie duo had to rein in their attacking instincts and remain patient. One aspect of this partnership they did not neglect was the exemplary rotation of the strike, the judgement of singles to announce their aggressive intent even if the boundaries were not forthcoming.

Clarke is renowned as somewhat of a 'dasher', relinquishing his duty in the middle in search of a boundary to release the shackles. Yet here he was determined to await the right opportunity to pounce, he knew his time would come.

At the other end Hussey was as flexible to the situation as he is in any situation he finds himself in, knowing when to sit in and knowing when to squeeze the pressure on the fielding side, no wonder the Australian management were so keen for him to remain an integral part of the middle order rather than be shunted up to the opening spot. Although he would most probably have excelled there also.

Even the magician that is Murali had no answer to the these two. Their footwork to the spinner was decisive, whether that was in coming down the pitch, playing him on the front foot from the crease or using the whole depth of the crease to play him off the back foot. A real exhibition of how to play spin for youngsters throughout the world.

All four of the batsmen involved in the partnerships had to build their innings, were made to work hard for their runs from the start, and they all came through the tests and played a major part in helping their countries to start their series' with a crucial victory.

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