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A magnificent 162 from Jacques Kallis gave South Africa a first innings lead of 193 after the second day of the second Test and threatened England's chances of ending 2004 without a defeat in 13 Tests, writes Ted Corbett in Durban. Kallis's fifth century of a year in which he has scored 1,278 runs and averaged 85.20 in Tests brought a tribute from England's most successful bowler Matthew Hoggard.
"He is a world-class batsman at the top of his form," said Hoggard, who had Kallis caught after he had batted more than six hours, faced 264 balls and hit 21 fours and a six. "To bat so long on that pitch without playing a false shot is a sign of his class. His innings means we have to score big runs if we are to keep our unbeaten record."
Kallis said he rated his 18th Test century as one of his best. "I still remember my first in Australia but this was right up there. We knew we had to come back hard after losing in Port Elizabeth because going 2-0 down would have meant the series was gone. Now we feel we can level things in the next couple of days."
In an age when footballers kiss after every goal, when athletes burst into tears if they lose and cricketers scream their appeals, Kallis is an unemotional sportsman. His innings made England 5/1 outsiders - although one former captain has had a large bet at that price - and turned the series upside down, but as he walked off his only signal to the crowd was to raise his bat gently three times. "It was nice to test myself against Andrew Flintoff, one of the world's best all-rounders, and such a strong team," was his only comment.
England made 30 without loss but a long haul lies ahead, especially as doubt remains about Ashley Giles being able to bowl in the second innings. The Durban pitch is said to favour batsmen more as a Test goes on, and with three days remaining a draw seems out of the question.
In Melbourne, Australia reached 203 for 5 after two days of the second Test against Pakistan, 138 runs behind. The home side, who won the first Test by a crushing 491 runs, had Damien Martyn unbeaten on 67 and wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist on 26 not out. Pakistan were dismissed for 341 in their first innings on the stroke of lunch.
India trounced Bangladesh by 91 runs in the third and final one-day international in Dhaka to clinch the series 2-1, and made amends for Sunday's shock defeat. Opener Virender Sehwag hit 70 and Yuvraj Singh blasted a 32-ball 69 as the visitors made 348 for 5. Bangladesh were restricted to 257 for 9.
* Christmas may be the one time of year when Leicester fans regret the coming of rugby's professional era, despite all the prizes it has brought them, writes Huw Richards at Welford Road. It used to be the high point of the year with star-packed Barbarian teams dazzling sell-out Welford Road crowds Nowadays, seasonal fare is routine league action - admittedly all it takes to test the ground's 16,815 capacity.
But Worcester's first league visit, which ended in a 50-7 defeat for them, nevertheless incorporated much-loved Leicester rituals. First came the traditional Neil Back try, the veteran flanker crossing for the 122nd in a series dating back to 1990, scored as usual from minimal range after a rolling maul. Then after determined resistance by Worcester came the pre-interval deluge. Three scores in five minutes began with a penalty try after Martin Corry was dispossessed illegally while plunging towards the line. Next, left-wing Geordan Murphy and Back combined to send centre Daryl Gibson away, and outside-half Andy Goode dummied over for the third.
With victory and a four-try bonus - which extends their Premiership lead to nine points - secured, Leicester sparked intermittently after the break. Murphy scored one try and created others for two replacements: scrum-half Harry Ellis and wing Dan Hipkiss. There was also time for one more Leicester tradition - Martin Johnson throwing a punch - before the former England captain was replaced after 63 minutes.
If points were awarded for favourable impressions Worcester would already be safe from relegation. They are tidy and well organised but lack the pace, power and penetration necessary to live with Leicester. Centre Gary Trueman's well- taken and politely-applauded try was little compensation for the news from London Irish, where Northampton's last-minute 22-21 victory dropped Worcester back to the bottom of the table.
Meanwhile, England's new captain Jonny Wilkinson showed glimpses of his World Cup form by notching up 12 points as Newcastle won 15-11 away at Leeds Tykes.
* Rangers reduced Celtic's lead at the top of the Scottish Premier League to just a point with an emphatic 4-1 home win over Motherwell, with striker Nacho Novo scoring two. Second-placed Rangers have 49 points from 20 games and their Glasgow rivals, who beat Hearts 2-0 on Sunday, have 50. Hibernian moved into third on 36 points after their 4-1 win at Dundee United.
* Triple Gold Cup winner Best Mate will face five other horses, including main rival Beef Or Salmon, in the Lexus Chase at the Leopardstown Christmas Festival on Tuesday.
Best Mate won this race at the Dublin track 12 months ago, but the going today is expected to be soft, which will not suit the horse trained by Henrietta Knight. In addition to Beef Or Salmon, the nine-year-old will also face Pizarro, Royal & SunAlliance Chase winner Rule Supreme, Cloudy Bays and Barrow Drive.
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