Ntini faces chop as he heads for Middlesex

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The Independent Online

The last time England won here, Colin Cowdrey scored a hundred, Johnny Wardle took 12 wickets, Russell Endean became the first man to be out handled ball in a Test match and there was a kerfuffle at home about why Bruce Forsyth was not awarded a knighthood.

To beat South Africa at Newlands for the first time in 53 years in the Third Test which starts today, England will have to be vigilant and diligent. Their win in Durban has left the hosts looking discomfited and aware that a nation is growing impatient.

It looked yesterday as though England would play their preferred XI with Paul Collingwood coming through a rigorous net session. South Africa's selectors did not meet until late afternoon to discuss what to do about their ageing fast bowler, Makhaya Ntini, who took two wickets in the first two Tests.

Ntini's hand may be forced because it emerged yesterday that he is joining Middlesex this summer as a Kolpak player and is intending to announce his international retirement at the end of this series. That date may now be brought forward.

"It is a sensitive issue," said captain Graeme Smith. "He is an icon throughout the country not only as a player of colour but he has also been one of our most iconic cricketers in terms of performance over the past decade. When senior players are at the point where questions are being asked about them, it is a terrible time for the leadership group to manage."

Andrew Strauss, England's captain, trying to encapsulate England's new single-minded approach, said: "You want to be ruthless and just as desperate to win when you're up as when you're behind."

Win here, Ntini may retire, Brucie may be knighted.

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