Last hurrah for Makhaya Ntini

South African icon Makhaya Ntini makes his final international appearance on Sunday in a Twenty20 international against India before what is being claimed will be the biggest crowd to watch a cricket match in Africa.

The match is being played at Moses Mabhida Stadium, venue of the Soccer World Cup semifinal between Spain and Germany, and Cricket South Africa say all tickets have been sold.

A crowd of just under 50 000 is expected for an extravaganza, which will also include a Bollywood concert to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Indians to arrive in South Africa.

The country’s largest Indian community lives in this Indian Ocean city.

South African president Jacob Zuma will make a presentation to Ntini as well as to Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar and four prominent political and business figures representing South African and Indian society.

Members of the first post-apartheid South African cricket team, which toured India under the captaincy of Clive Rice in 1991, will be guests at the match.

Ntini (33) announced his retirement from international cricket this season after being left out of the national Test and one-day teams.

Once a herd boy in a rural area of the Eastern Cape, Ntini was the first black African to represent South Africa at cricket.

Boundless enthusiasm
A fast bowler possessed of boundless enthusiasm and one of the fittest players in the game, he played in 101 Tests, taking 390 wickets—second only to Shaun Pollock—at an average of 28.82.

He took 10 wickets in a match four times to set a South African record which was equalled last year by Dale Steyn, and boasts the best match figures in South African Test history, 13 for 132 against the West Indies in Port of Spain during the 2004/05 season.

Ntini also owns the best bowling figures by a South African in an ODI—six for 22 against Australia in Cape Town in 2005/06. He took 265 wickets in 172 one-day matches at an average of 24.53.

Moses Mabhida Stadium is unlikely to provide the ideal swansong for a bowler because the short side boundaries in a football ground should not prove much of a challenge for batsmen.

However, when the specially-laid pitch was tried out by franchise cricketers recently they said the surface was slow, making stroke play difficult.

Jacques Kallis and fast bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel were not included in the South African squad ahead of a five-match ODI series against India, starting at Kingsmead here next Wednesday.

Kallis was subsequently ruled out of the one-day games because of injury. - Sapa-AFP


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