South African captain Graeme Smith gave his unequivocal backing on Wednesday to Makhaya Ntini, saying the fast bowler would almost certainly play in the second Test against England at Kingsmead starting tomorrow.
There was no question in Smith’s mind of Ntini being dropped for new discovery Friedel de Wet if star fast bowler Dale Steyn was passed fit. He said the most likely scenario was a straight swap, with Steyn replacing De Wet, who came in for the world’s No. 1-ranked Test bowler on the morning of the first Test at Centurion and almost bowled South Africa to victory on the final day.
De Wet had a spell of three for three as the England middle order collapsed, finishing with four for 55 in the second innings after taking one for 72 in the first.
“It was terrific to see Friedel bowl that well, but we have three guys who have had the job over a period of time and been really successful,” Smith said.
Asked specifically about Ntini, who took two for 119, but was largely unimpressive in playing in his 100th Test at Centurion, Smith said: “Makhaya brings a lot of experience to our attack. He maybe didn’t bowl as well as he would have liked at Centurion, but he’s a guy that I certainly support. He’s been integral [to the team] throughout my captaincy, so I really back him to come through in this Test match and bowl well.”
Smith, when asked whether he would be surprised if England fielded the same team that held on for a draw with nine wickets down in their second innings in the first Test, said it seemed that England wanted to stick to picking six specialist batsmen.
“For them, it’s a slightly more conservative outlook. After their middle order in both innings have been troubled, they maybe need to have the extra batting available,” he said.
Smith said England were likely to have doubts after their second innings struggle in the first Test.
“When you collapse like that, it leaves a negative thought,” he said. “One of our aims is that we would like to expose that middle order.”
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