Donald marks out his long run

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The Independent Online
Allan Donald's piercing eyes gleam with wicked intent as he announces the news batsmen are dreading. The world's fastest bowler is determined to carry his record-breaking Test career into the next century.

At 30, Donald could be forgiven for planning his retirement after 10 years of almost non-stop cricket. Instead South Africa's most potent weapon is planning to maintain the pace and, almost incredibly, stay at the peak of his profession for at least another five years. That is alarming enough for the game's premier batsmen, but there is much worse to come. "I'm not only confident that I can become an even better bowler over the next few years," Donald said with a grin this week, "I also know I have the ability to bowl quicker than ever. I'm convinced the best really is yet to come."

The physical evidence to back up his claim is tangible. In last week's first Test against India in Durban, Donald produced devastating spells to finish with match figures of nine for 54 as South Africa cruised to a 328-run victory. In just 29 Tests, including the current one, Donald has taken 135 wickets and he insists there are plenty more to come.

Relaxing in the Newlands dressing-room during the second Test in Cape Town, an ever-enthusiastic Donald said: "I have never felt stronger, never felt fitter, never been so confident of my own ability. I also know that I am becoming a better bowler each and every day I play. I've made a few technical changes to my action and the results have been staggering. I've taken three paces off my run-up, altered my wrist position and straightened my arm at the top of the delivery. It's made a vast difference.

"I'm taking less out of myself but I've been become much more compact. That has allowed me to generate plenty of pace and develop my outswinger. I look back at how I was bowling and realise I was tearing in off 18 paces and simply hitting the deck. To be honest I hadn't a clue most of the time but that's all changed. I know exactly what I'm doing and my skills are increasing all the time. I will become a much better bowler over the next couple of years."

Donald gives the credit for his remarkable resurgence to his rest last summer after opting out of the daily grind of the 1996 county season with Warwickshire. "That was the best decision of my career," he said. "Warwickshire tried to talk me into playing but I was having none of it. I knew I needed a complete break from top-class cricket. I came back to South Africa fit, fresh and hungry for cricket. I had given myself a new lease of life. Now I definitely want to become the first South African to take 200 Test wickets. I'd like to get there by 1999. I'll set myself another target once I make it."

Donald also plans just one more full season in county cricket. "I will play for Warwickshire again next year. I might even play half a season in 1998 after the World Cup. That would be my benefit season so it might be a nice way to go out."

The South African cricket chief Ali Bacher and the chairman of selectors Peter Pollock are unlikely to stand in the way of the chance of a pounds 250,000 pay-off. They have, however, scheduled a meeting with Donald to discuss his long-term future. They might be in for something of a pleasant surprise.

lSachin Tendulkar and Mohammad Azharuddin lifted India's morale with a record partnership on the third day of the second Test against South Africa in Cape Town yesterday. The pair put on 222 off only 244 balls - a record sixth-wicket stand by any country against South Africa - to rescue India after they had plunged to 58 for five in the morning session. Although they were parted on 280, 50 short of the total needed to avoid the follow-on, Tendulkar saw his side to 359 before he was last man out for 169. South Africa lost two quick wickets before the close, but, at 24 for two, held a 194-run lead.