Makhaya magic in Trinidad

14 April 2005

If success in test cricket were decided purely on enthusiasm and a never-say-die attitude, Makhaya Ntini might well be the best bowler in the game.

As it is, he proved he isn’t far off that lofty status with a South African record-setting performance in the second test against the West Indies in Trinidad, that ended on Tuesday.

SA sporting greats: Makhaya Ntini
Makhaya Ntini’s hard-won status as a leading international strike bowler – as ready with a smile as with a bouncer – is far removed from his upbringing in a rural village in the Eastern Cape.

Coming off a poor performance in the first test – in which he claimed 0 for 98 in 23 overs and in which SA was forced to follow on – Ntini returned the best match analysis by a South African to spur the Proteas to an eight-wicket win and a one-nil lead in the four-test series.

His career-best 7 for 37 in the West Indies’ second innings gave him a match haul of 13 for 132, bettering SA test record of Hugh Tayfield – the only other South African to claim 13 wickets in a test – who took 13 for 165 against Australia in Melbourne in 1952-53.

Ntini’s second 10-wicket haul lifted him to a career-high fourth in the world test bowling rankings, narrowly behind his regular new ball partner, Shaun Pollock.

Dismissed the top three
The West Indians scored 347 in their first innings, with Brian Lara hitting 196. Ntini, stood out for SA, capturing 6 for 95, including the wickets of the top three batsmen in the order: Wavell Hinds (213 in the first test), Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

It looked as if the South Africans would take control of the contest when, in their first innings, they stood at 370 for 6 after the third day, thanks mainly to 148 from captain Graeme Smith. However, early on day four, Gayle dismissed four players in quick succession and the Proteas slid to 398 all out and a small lead of 51 runs.

Batting again, the islanders reached 170 for 5 by stumps, having at one stage been reduced to 92 for 5 as Ntini claimed 3 for 34. That proved to be just a hint of the drama to come from the man from the Eastern Cape.

On the final day, Ntini proved virtually unplayable after Ramnaresh Sarwan, on 93, and Dwayne Bravo, on 30, resumed the West Indian innings, having already put on 78 together. They added a further 10 runs to that tally before Ntini struck, having Bravo caught behind by Mark Boucher for 33.

Courtney Browne entered the fray, but eight runs later, having scored just two, he fell LBW to Ntini as the home side stumbled to 188 for 7.

Darren Powell was next up and failed to last long as Andre Nel had him caught for one.

Bowled for a duck
Pedro Collins came in at 189 for 8, but only one run was added before he became victim number six for Ntini, bowled for a duck.

The Border speedster followed that up with the final wicket – Reon King, also bowled without scoring – to finish with a career-best haul of 7 for 37, which included an astonishing 4 for 3 on the final morning, and a SA record match analysis of 13 for 132.

Ntini’s sensational performance left South Africa requiring just 144 runs for victory, and after an opening stand of 117 between Graeme Smith and AV de Villiers, it became a formality for SA to take a one-nil series lead.

Ntini was named man of the match.

The absence of the Shaun Pollock, South Africa’s record holder with 377 test victims, in the second test emphasised all the more the brilliance of Ntini’s performance.

Speaking afterwards, Ntini told the Trinidad Express: “On the first day, before I left my hotel room, I said: ‘This is going to be my test’ … It’s all about dedication. I knew things could turn around”, he said. “I was so proud of that.”

Now everybody who bowls in a test for South Africa is going to want to do better than that.

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