Ntini destroys NZ

It is far from the first time we have seen the sight of Makhaya Ntini ripping through a batting lineup this year, and it doesn’t look like being a sight we’ll stop seeing in the near future. The New Zealanders were once again no match for the tireless and massively in-form paceman, crumbling to 119 all out on the first day of the third and final test at Johannesburg, and they are already well on the back foot.

It started badly enough, with New Zealand losing both batsmen without either of them scoring any runs. South Africa won the toss and elected to field, and in his first match back after being somewhat surprisingly excluded in the first two tests Jamie How had a disastrous comeback innings when he was caught by AB de Villiers off the bowling of Dale Steyn from the second ball he faced. When Michael Papps followed, clipping a ball from Makhaya Ntini on to his stumps three overs later without a run being added, it was 0-2 and looking like it couldn’t get any worse. But it did when Scott Styris joined in the duck-scoring fun, giving de Villiers his second catch and Ntini his second wicket, and the score was 2-3.

It looked as though New Zealand had got the innings back on track when Newlands double centurion Stephen Fleming and Nathan Astle put on 55 for the fourth wicket. But when that was broken, Astle out to Steyn thanks to the hands of Kallis, the collapse resumed. 21 runs later a promising 46 from Fleming was ended by who else but Ntini, out caught behind by Boucher despite some serious doubt as to whether he hit it. The usually reliable Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori managed just two runs between them and the score was an abysmal 82-7. Of those wickets, Ntini had four and Steyn three. They weren’t the only bowlers who bowled well though, both Andrew Hall and Shaun Pollock bowled excellent spells, beating the bat frequently and being slightly unlucky to have no wickets to show for it.

James Franklin and Jacob Oram, both of whom having scored centuries during this series, tried to rebuild from the close to impossible position and at least took the score into triple figures. But they didn’t get much beyond that before Franklin fell for 19, Hall getting a well-deserved first wicket when Mark Boucher took the catch. Then Pollock got himself a number in the wickets column when Oram was given lbw despite the ball hitting quite high on the tall left-hander’s leg. He was out for 18, and the score was 118-9, with New Zealand’s hopes of drawing the series looking incredibly remote. Only one run was added to the total before the tenth wicket inevitably fell, Chris Martin giving Ntini yet another five-wicket bag.

New Zealand’s response in the field began very promisingly when Martin went through the defences of Boeta Dippenaar in the first over to make the score 1-1. But then Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla got the innings back on track and the runs began to flow. The first 50 runs came up from just 60 balls, and then Smith’s fifty from just 55.

After an innings of 63 that was not only dominant and aggressive but brave considering the painful blow he recieved to an elbow during his stay at the crease, Smith was dismissed by an excellent ball from Franklin which found the edge of the bat on the way through to McCullum. The score was then 99-2, just 20 behind New Zealand’s effort.

Although overshadowed by Smith during their 98-run partnership, Amla was moving along at a decent rate too and started to play even more fluently when Smith departed and he was joined by Jacques Kallis. In one over against Franklin Amla moved through to his half century with three boundaries in four balls.

The score reached 131 before the third wicket fall, Martin getting Kallis out bowled for 9. But then without a run being added to the total Amla fell, getting a top edge on a ball he seemed to have trouble seeing in the fading light from Styris to give Papps an easy catch at second slip to end his impressive innings of 56 and allow New Zealand to regain some pride near the end of the day.

And it proved to be nearer the end of the day than it was supposed to be, as an over after the fall of Amla’s wicket the light was offered to the batsmen, who gladly accepted.
It was certainly South Africa’s day, with a crucial toss victory and some superb bowling putting them well and truly in control before they even started their first innings, and Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla backed up the bowlers’ good work with some excellent attacking batting. Already facing a deficit with still six wickets left to get, New Zealand already face a tough task.

New Zealand 119
Stephen Fleming 46, Nathan Astle 20
Makhaya Ntini 5-35, Dale Steyn 3-43

South Africa 131-4
Graeme Smith 63, Hashim Amla 56
Chris Martin 2-28, Scott Styris 1-1

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