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December 16, 2009
Gerald Majola, the Cricket South Africa chief executive, has hailed Makhaya Ntini's career as the fast bowler reached 100 Test caps in the opening encounter against England in Centurion.
"Makhaya Ntini's 100th Test match for South Africa marks a major milestone in one of the most incredible journeys yet undertaken in world cricket," he said. "Makhaya rose from being a herd boy in the tiny village of Mdingi in the Eastern Cape to being rated as one of the world's best fast bowlers and becoming the most popular sports person South Africa has known.
"He has stridden the world cricket stage like a colossus since making his Test debut at the age of 20," he added. "His 10 wickets against England at Lord's in 2003 also stands alone in the South African record books at the home of cricket."
Majola praised the impact that Ntini has had within the sport and the way he has played the game over an 11-year career. "For more than a decade, Makhaya has been the face of South African cricket wherever the game is played," he said. "His has been the face of friendship, enjoyment and a fierce will to win for his country."
Ntini himself has spoken of the pride of reaching his hundred milestone and admitted he never thought he would get the chance to represent his country. "For me, playing 100 times for my country - from a time when you thought, as a black cricketer, it wouldn't be possible to penetrate and be successful among a white-dominated sport, it gives a lot of inspiration to younger people. If I can do it, so can they."
Ntini will have an even more important role to play in his 100th Test after South Africa lost the services of Dale Steyn shortly before the toss. Steyn pulled up during the warm-ups with a recurrence of the hamstring injury that has troubled him since the third ODI in Cape Town.
He had appeared on course to make the Test after coming through South Africa's training camp in Potchefstroom and his absence leaves Graeme Smith short of his main strike bowler. It also meant a last-minute debut for 29-year-old Friedel de Wet who had been kept with the squad on standby.
Graeme Smith, the South African captain, said it had been a privilege to have had a part in Ntini's career: "He's a great success story, and he has worked very hard for this honour. He has always been an important part of the team - his work ethic, his commitment, his energy and his vibrant personality. I wish him every success in his 100th match.
"He'll tell you that his success is down to a lot of hard work. He's had his ups and downs, but he's always met them with 100 percent commitment," he added. "Makhaya has become the spearhead of our attack and I've been very grateful for his energy and commitment as a leader. He's a vibrant person and he's played a prominent role, not just in this team, but in South Africa."