The latest entrant to the 300-wicket club January 20, 2007

The Ntini story in numbers



Makhaya Ntini has had a fabulous last two years, and has clearly established himself as one of the best in the world © Getty Images

When Makhaya Ntini speared one in to Mohammad Sami and had him caught off the inside edge by Mark Boucher, he became only the third South African - and the 21st bowler in the world - to get to the 300-wicket club in Test cricket. It was a well-deserved milestone for a bowler who is at the peak of his powers and has been leading the team's bowling attack for more than a year now.

Back on March 20, 1998 Ntini began his Test career with a caught-Boucher dismissal - Aravinda de Silva was the victim then - and in nine years since then, many other accomplished batsmen have fallen to his pace and his sharp indippers. (Click here for Ntini's complete list of wickets). More lately, though, he has added another bow to his armour - the delivery which straightens after pitching - and that has made him a significantly more potent bowler - his last 100 wickets have come in a mere 19 Tests.

Ntini's progress to 300 wickets
Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
After 31 Tests 100 28.39 2/ 0
After 55 Tests 204 29.50 7/ 1
After 1st inng. of 74th 301 27.67 17/ 4

Not only has Ntini been the leading bowler for South Africa in the last couple of years, he has been among the best in the world. Since 2005, he has averaged more than five wickets per Test, while the rate of 23.53 runs per wicket has been bettered only by Muttiah Muralitharan and Glenn McGrath.

Best bowlers since 2005 (Qual: 50 wickets)
Bowler Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Muttiah Muralitharan 19 142 17.49 13/ 6
Glenn McGrath 19 86 23.02 4/ 0
Makhaya Ntini 23 118 23.53 10/ 3
Shane Warne 26 147 25.07 9/ 2
Andrew Flintoff 25 102 27.75 1/ 0
Matthew Hoggard 27 109 28.20 5/ 1

Among South African bowlers, Ntini has been far and away the best since 2005. Shaun Pollock, who incidentally also reached the 300-mark in his 74th Test, has only averaged 32 during this period.

Leading South African bowlers since 2005
Bowler Tests Wickets Average 5WI/ 10WM
Makhaya Ntini 23 118 23.53 10/ 3
Dale Steyn 8 32 29.50 2/ 0
Andre Nel 17 61 30.16 2/ 1
Shaun Pollock 18 53 32.09 0/ 0

Ntini's stock delivery has been the one bowled from wide of the crease angling into the right-hander, and while that has made it very tough for him to win lbw verdicts, it has been the ideal ball to nail left-handers. The three batsmen he has dismissed most often in his Test career are all left-handers - Marcus Trescothick has fallen to him nine times, while Chris Gayle (eight) and Matthew Hayden (seven) have succumbed to him pretty often too.

That angle, though, has made it extremely tough for him to win lbw decisions - only 20 of his 301 wickets have been won in that fashion, a percentage of just 6.78. Among bowlers with at least 200 wickets, only Bishan Bedi, India's left-arm spinner, has a lower percentage. Ntini's preferred modes of dismissal are caught by fielders (51%), bowled and caught by wicketkeeper (21% each). Boucher has accounted for 60 catches off his bowling - only off Pollock has he taken more catches (79).

Lowest lbw % for bowlers with at least 200 Test wickets
Bowler Total wickets Lbws Lbw percent
Bishan Bedi 266 16 6.02
Makhaya Ntini 301 20 6.64
Lance Gibbs 309 21 6.80
Derek Underwood 297 24 8.08
Graham McKenzie 246 22 8.94
Jeff Thomson 200 18 9.00

Despite all the successes in the last couple of years, there's still one area that needs huge improvement - his record abroad. Ntini averages a poor 38.08 runs per wicket in 34 overseas Tests, in which he has only managed 98 wickets. In his last eight series away from home, only twice has he finished with an average of less than 30. In home games, on the other hand, his stats read an outstanding 203 wickets from 40 games, at an average of 22.65. That's one stat he will want to rectify before he finishes his career.

S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo

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