Today In History: Ntini’s first test debut

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19 March 1998

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Makhaya Ntini became the first African to play for the South African cricket team, making his first test debut on 19 March 1998 against Sri Lanka in Cape Town, picking up two wickets in the match. Born on 6 July 1977 in Mdingi, a small village in the Eastern Cape, he became only the third South African to take 300 Test wickets after Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, and to reach second place in the ICC test match bowling ratings.

Barriers on and off the field (courtesy of https://www.brandsouthafrica.com/people-culture/sport/greats/makhaya_ntini

With his quality performances and his ever-smiling, ever-trying attitude, Makhaya Ntini quickly became a popular sportsman in South Africa, appealing to people of all races and backgrounds, thus breaking through any lingering barriers among the country’s sport lovers. Annual surveys have more than once declared him to be South Africa’s most popular sportsman.

Ntini also recorded a number of feats that will remain in the record books. Apart from being South Africa’s second-highest wicket taker in test cricket, he also owns the best ever test bowling figures by a South African. He achieved those in the second test against the West Indies in Port of Spain in April 2005, capturing 6 for 95 and 7 for 37 to finish the match with a haul of 13 for 132.

Rare feat

While a number of South Africans are featured on the Lords’ Honours Board for visiting bowlers taking five wickets in an innings, Ntini is the only one to have taken 10 wickets in a match against England. He is one of only 10 men in history to have achieved the feat.

The Proteas won that match, in August 2003, by an innings and 92 runs, but it required a special effort on a pitch that became very friendly towards batsmen as the match wore on. England failed in their first innings, however, being dismissed for 173 as Ntini led the South African bowling attack with 5 for 75.

South Africa responded with the innings innings total in the country’s history, 682 for 6 declared, with captain Graeme Smith making 259, Gary Kirsten 108, and Boeta Dippenaar 92.

England managed 417 all out second time around, but Ntini, with 5 for 145, was again the leading wicket taker as South Africa recorded a big victory.

Ten wickets in a match

Ntini has, in fact, captured 10 wickets in a match on four occasions, more than any other South African. Apart from the two abovementioned instances, he managed the feat in successive test matches in 2006.

At the end of March, in the third test against Australia at the Wanderers, he claimed 6 for 100 and 4 for 78. That left Ntini with 19 wickets in the series, which was 12 more than any other South African player managed.

In the first match of a three-test series against New Zealand that followed soon afterwards, Ntini was named man of the match after capturing 5 for 94 and 5 for 51, for a match haul of 10 for 146, as South Africa recorded a 128-run win. He went on to pick up Player of the Series honours.

Team leader

Once regarded by the sceptics as a “quota selection” for South Africa, Ntini has evolved into a team leader for the Proteas and one of the world’s top cricketers. His 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.

Ntini was first spotted by Border cricket development officer Raymond Booi in his home village of Mdingi. As a development officer, Booi did the rounds at the villages, introducing the young boys and men to the game of cricket, looking out for anyone with talent that might nurtured.

Ntini recalls that he was passing by one day when Booi was visiting, going to fetch cattle or horses, when he and some friends were called closer. He was given a ball and told to bowl. The results stunned Booi. Young Makhaya might have been a bit wild, but he was fast, and Booi knew he had found someone with enough raw talent to be turned into something special.

Booi arranged for Ntini to attend Dale College in King William’s Town, a school well known for its sporting prowess. When he first arrived there at age 14, the budding cricket star couldn’t speak a word of English. However, he took up the challenge of his new life and the opportunities it presented, and prospered.

Ntini represented Border Schools at the Nuffield Week (U19 inter-provincial) in 1994 and 1995, and in 1995 was also selected for the national age group team.

First-class debut

He made his first-class debut against the touring England team in November 1995, claiming Alec Stewart as his first first-class victim.

Being one of the first black cricketers to make a mark after South Africa became a democratic country in 1994, Ntini soon found himself in favour with the national cricket selectors.

In January 1998 he made his one-day international debut against New Zealand on the WACA Ground in Perth. He performed superbly, sending down 10 overs and conceding only 31 runs, while claiming the wickets of Black Cap captain Stephen Fleming and wicketkeeper Adam Parore.

Two months later he made his test debut against Sri Lanka in Cape Town, picking up two wickets in the match. Ntini was fortunate to make his debut at a time when South Africa had two world-class opening bowlers from whom he could learn – Shaun Pollock and Allan Donald, both of whom broke the magical barrier of 300 test wickets.

2 Comments on "Today In History: Ntini’s first test debut"

  1. What a talented athlete and so many after that!

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