Ntini extends Vaughan's poor run

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The Independent Online

When Michael Vaughan played Makhaya Ntini off his foot on to his leg stump the perceived wisdom was that it had been a wretched piece of luck for him. This was being harsh on Ntini who had, yet again, taken advantage of his ability to make the ball skid through on to the bat.

He is a bowler who has modelled himself on Malcolm Marshall, even if he has not been able to copy every aspect of that great bowler's game. None the less, he constantly attacks the batsman and, even though he can be expensive, he bowls his share of wicket-taking balls.

In the Lord's Test, which South Africa won, five of Ntini's wickets fell to short balls that batsmen tried to pull. In every case, the ball was upon the batsman fractionally before he expected it and he was unable to control the stroke and a catch ensued.

In the absence of Shaun Pollock, Ntini was always likely to be the bowler whom the England batsmen had to watch here.

The ball made a great many indentations early on the first day before the surface moisture had dried out, and Ntini's method made him the most likely bowler to exploit this.

Vaughan did not make the mistake of playing back to Ntini, but was a fraction late with his forward stroke. The result was that although the ball met the middle of the bat, which was commendably adjacent to the front pad, it had not reached the near perpendicular at which point it would normally make contact with the ball. As a result, it flew down from the face of the angled bat on to the side of his boot and rolled back on to the leg stump.

There is an element of bad luck when this happens to a batsman, but on this occasion it also showed that Vaughan's concentration had not fully taken into account Ntini's skid-ability. It is something that batsmen should never forget against this vastly improved fast bowler from East London.

After his superb 156 in the first Test at Edgbaston when Nasser Hussain was still the captain, Vaughan has made five low scores since taking on the job.

But such a fine batsman need not worry, for in no time he will surely again be scoring big hundreds for England. Fortunately, he is too sensible to give houseroom to the headlines about the captaincy affecting his batting that may come his way.