On the evening of Christmas Eve, while Jacques Kallis and buddy Mark Boucher were laughing and greeting excited auto- graph-seekers at the team hotel before heading for the official Christmas party, it was difficult to picture the laughing giant as being either worried, or in pain.
But Kallis, on whom rested South Africa's hopes in the current scenario, was in terrible pain. He had woken on Sunday with a sharp shooting pain in his mid and lower back (in the thoracic spinal area) and was having difficulty moving.
Coach Mickey Arthur on Monday did not indicate they had any injury worry. Kallis was ruled out of the second Test and according to an official release, is currently taking medication and "receiving extensive treatment from physiotherapist Shane Jabaar", and is making “steady progress".
"Jacques is able to move in an upright position which indicates significant recovery to the pain he was experiencing. Horizontally, he still experiences discomfort," continued the release. Kallis, by the way, averages 57.13 at this ground and his unavailability for this vital Test would have been a huge blow for the South Africans.
In his last four Tests at Kingsmead, the South African vice-captain and last year's joint ICC Cricketer of the Year had 105 against Pakistan, 177 against the West Indies, 162 against England and 114 against Australia, all, incidentally, first innings scores.