Ntini nightmare for New Zealand

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The Independent Online

A clinical all-round display saw South Africa beat New Zealand by eight wickets to win the opening VB series final match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground yesterday.

Having lost the toss, South Africa battled back to reduce New Zealand from 127 for 2 to 190 all out in 47.5 overs. The Proteas were helped by a sterling fielding display that included two run outs, but it was the fast bowler Makhaya Ntini who proved invaluable. Ntini returned figures of 5 for 31 as South Africa took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three final series.

Several days of torrential rain in Sydney, the venue for Friday's second game, could put the match in doubt, making Ntini's contribution all the more telling, especially as the competition rules make no provision for reserve days.

Ntini bowled with hostility and enthusiasm, his early spell bringing him the wickets of the openers Lou Vincent (seven) and Nathan Astle (nine) as the Black Caps were reduced to 18 for 2. "I have been working very hard to get back my rhythm and tonight I found it paid off with five wickets and I think that was good timing as it was the final with so much at stake and so many people watching," Ntini said. "It was a big night for me, especially at the MCG, one of the biggest grounds I have ever played on."

Following the early setback, the experienced New Zealand duo of Stephen Fleming and Craig McMillan put on 109 for the third wicket before Lance Klusener made two breakthroughs in the same over.

Klusener had Fleming caught by Jacques Kallis for 50 with the first ball of the 33rd over and dismissed Chris Cairns with the sixth. With McMillan in good form, New Zealand recovered slightly from the double setback and still looked good for a decent total as they reached 155 for 4. But they then lost four wickets for 13 runs in under five overs.

Shaun Pollock, the South African captain, initiated the collapse when he had Chris Harris caught behind for nine before Herschelle Gibbs ran out McMillan for 73. Dion Nash and Adam Parore followed in quick succession, with Jonty Rhodes running out Shane Bond to end the innings.

Once South Africa started, 190 never looked like being enough for New Zealand, who have now won once in their last 17 games against this opponent. Gibbs (24) and Kirsten (25) put on 51 for the first wicket, but that was as good as it got for the Black Caps as an unbroken third-wicket stand of 139 between Boeta Dippenaar (79 not out) and Jacques Kallis (59no) took South Africa home.