Ntini's night out

S. SUBRAMANIUM

Makhaya Ntini, who destroyed Pakistan with his pace and bounce, once again exposed the vulnerability of the sub-continent batsmen when facing quality seam bowling, writes Vijay Lokapally.

The nature of the pitch might have raised a debate, but the curator, Daljit Singh, could not have been at fault completely for the lop-sided finish at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. Some of the big names in the game came a cropper when the ball bounced and seamed. It was one of those rare matches in one-day cricket where the bowlers called the shots.

"The ball did seam and bounce but it was certainly not unplayable. There was no awkward bounce. I was surprised the batsmen were not willing to graft. I was reminded of Sunil Gavaskar. He would have tackled the bowlers with his great technique," said Daljit in defence of the pitch he had prepared.

As rightly described by the Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, it was "abject surrender". All talk of Pakistan having discovered its winning ways under the captaincy of Younis Khan seemed meaningless in the face of Makhaya Ntini's sensational bowling.

"It was a very poor batting performance. Our fielding and bowling were excellent, far better than in the previous game, but our batting was poor. It wasn't an easy surface, by any stretch of imagination, to bat on but our shot selection wasn't very good. We're disappointed for the Pakistan public. We let them down," said Woolmer, who was clearly unhappy with the way his team played in the do-or-die match against South Africa.

The South African skipper, Graeme Smith, was candid in his assessment of the wicket. "The pitch was a big factor. It was a pitch that was not in character with the sub-continent. It had good bounce and the ball seamed appreciably. Even in South Africa you don't get too many pitches like this where the ball swings around so much," he said.

Smith, however, admitted that the pitch was extremely difficult to play on. "It was a challenge for us. We really had to work hard to get there. We needed to graft after we were 42 for five. Even on a pitch like this we had to bowl the ball in the right areas. I thought Pakistan did it superbly upfront and we were just terrific in the field."

It was a brave decision by South Africa to bat first. "There was a stage when I was hoping for just 120-150 runs, and getting past 200 was great. At one point I really wondered if I had made the right decision to bat first. It was a difficult pitch. I was very happy when we got past 200. I did believe it would be enough but I knew we had to do well. We had to start well, get a good chunk of the Pakistan batting. If they got off to a good start it would always be difficult. And then we had Makhaya (Ntini) and Polly (Pollock)."

Pakistan seemed to have done a good job initially, but there was enough to suggest at the halfway stage that the pitch held the key. Grafting was the best way to get to the target but Pakistan chose the adventurous route and paid the penalty.

Pakistan's worst performance came from Younis Khan. A lot depended on him since only the previous day he had talked of how he loved his job and the responsibility that came with it. He should have shown the way for his team with a great innings, but instead he showed the timid side of his character by playing a horrendous shot — a pull from outside the off-stump that ended in an ugly dismissal. It was Pakistan's most embarrassing moment of the match.

In contrast was the manner in which Justin Kemp adapted to the situation when South Africa was down. He grafted, and in the company of Mark Boucher, led his team's revival.

The 131-run partnership between Kemp and Boucher was the key to South Africa's success and a lesson on how to bat on a difficult pitch. "When we got a 100, a total of 160 to 180 was still in our minds. Batting was tough but we were positive all the time," said Kemp.

He also gave full credit to Boucher for his splendidly crafted innings. The five pull shots that Boucher played showed how well he had read the pitch and the opposition.

However, the night belonged to Ntini. His pace and bounce left the Pakistan innings in a shambles and once again exposed the vulnerability of the sub-continent batsmen when facing quality seam bowling. His five-wicket haul fetched him the Man of the Match award.

THE SCORES

P. C. A. Stadium, Mohali, Chandigarh, October 27.

South Africa won by 124 runs.

South Africa: G. C. Smith lbw b Umar Gul 0; H. H. Dippenaar c Kamran Akmal b Iftikhar Anjum 13; H. H. Gibbs c Shoaib Malik b Umar Gul 0; J. H. Kallis c Kamran Akmal b Iftikhar Anjum 17; A. B. de Villiers c Kamran Akmal b Yasir Arafat 10; M. V. Boucher c Mohammad Hafeez b Abdul Razzaq 69; J. M. Kemp c Shoaib Malik b Umar Gul 64; S. M. Pollock c Iftikhar Anjum b Mohammad Hafeez 2; A. Nel (not out) 12; M. Ntini (not out) 0; Extras (lb 15, w 11) 26. Total (for eight wkts, 50 overs) 213.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-1, 3-27, 4-36, 5-42, 6-173, 7-182, 8-199.

Pakistan bowling: Umar Gul 8-0-36-3; Iftikhar Anjum 10-4-26-2; Yasir Arafat 5-0-33-1; Abdul Razzaq 10-0-33-1; Mohammad Hafeez 8-1-23-1; Shahid Afridi 6-0-26-0; Shoaib Malik 3-0-21-0.

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez c Smith b Ntini 1; Imran Farhat c Pollock b Ntini 4; Younis Khan c Langeveldt b Ntini 7; Mohammad Yousuf b Pollock 5; Shoaib Malik c Boucher b Ntini 0; Kamran Akmal lbw b Ntini 1; Abdul Razzaq b Langeveldt 5; Shahid Afridi lbw b Pollock 14; Yasir Arafat c Ntini b Langeveldt 27; Umar Gul c Boucher b Langeveldt 7; Iftikhar Anjum (not out) 2; Extras (lb 5, w 9, nb 2) 16. Total (all out, 25 overs) 89.

Fall of wickets: 1-5, 2-9, 3-17, 4-21, 5-21, 6-27, 7-42, 8-47, 9-77.

South Africa bowling: Pollock 7-0-20-2; Ntini 6-2-21-5; Nel 6-0-23-0; Langeveldt 6-2-20-3.