One of the most symbolic fixtures for cricket fans at the turn of the millennium was the three-pronged South African attack involving legends Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock, along with the emerging force of Makhaya Ntini. The triplets combined to make the Proteas one of the most varied and devastating bowling attacks in its time. As the apprentice in the group, Ntini was often deployed as first change. A first glimpse was provided in his debut against Sri Lanka in 1998 where his first inning yielded 1/57 from 10 overs, while his second recorded immediate improvement with a 1/17 from 6.
Running with a focused run-up, using the full width of the pitch, Ntini created as much angle to bowl his trademark inswingers that attacked the batsman. He functioned on the basic you miss, I hit principle. When later promoted to open the bowling with Pollock, it proved to be the right mix; Ntini’s attacking style and the Pollock’s patient tenacity, never allowing batsmen to settle into a frame of mind. As Makhaya progressed through the ranks, he quickly learnt the containment side of bowling and added economy to his spells. With historic wicket-hauls to constantly earn his backing, Ntini remained with the team for up to 9 years, overseeing retirements of Donald and Pollock and forming a bowling partnership with the promising Dale Steyn.
Ntini’s most memorable displays were at Lord’s in 2003, when he took 5 wickets in each inning to burden England with an innings defeat. Two years hence, he bettered that 10 wicket haul with a 13/132 against West Indies in Port of Spain. A year later, in 2006, his 6/22 against Australia at home thumped the Aussies to a record ODI defeat. In 2009, during Ntini’s lowest runs of form, he featured in his centenary Test outing against England at Centurion. It was a grand moment for the Proteas, celebrating a player who is one of the best ambassadors of sport for post-Apartheid South Africa.