South Africa v Sri Lanka

At Cape Town, March 19, 20, 21, 22, 23. South Africa won by 70 runs. Toss: South Africa. Test debut: M. Ntini.

The selection of Makhaya Ntini was a significant event for South African cricket. The 20-year-old son of a domestic servant from a small village in the Eastern Cape, he was the first product of South Africa's development programme to make the Test team. He had been weaned on mini-cricket, a soft-ball game for children, and attended Dale College, a strong sporting school, on a cricket scholarship. Ntini's own debut performance was patchy, but he slotted well into a successful team as, for the second season in succession, Newlands hosted the most entertaining Test match of the South African summer. The pitch, one of the worst in the country two seasons earlier, had been transformed by successive groundsmen, Andy Atkinson and Christo Erasmus, into arguably the best, offering pace and consistent bounce.

Kirsten adopted his usual phlegmatic approach to batting, but Cullinan rejoiced in his recall with a stroke-filled innings that took him to his fourth Test hundred; 113 from 160 balls with 13 fours and a six. Cronje was aggressive but he, Kallis and Cullinan fell in quick succession. Pollock and Boucher batted through to the close and took their seventh-wicket stand to 95 on the second morning. Pollock batted with elegance and confidence, but again found himself too low in the order to sustain hopes of a century. As in Sheikhupura, where he made 82 against Pakistan, he was the last man out, this time for 92.

At the start of the Sri Lankan innings Jayasuriya hit three fours, but was living dangerously. He slashed and missed at Donald and was caught behind in the same over. After Mahanama became Donald's second victim, Atapattu and De Silva steadied the innings. Ntini's first spell in Test cricket was expensive, yielding 32 off four overs as he pitched too short and was punished by De Silva. He came back later, downwind this time, and was hit for further boundaries by De Silva before producing a good bouncer. De Silva ducked it but was caught off his glove for 77, made off 99 balls with 13 fours. Boucher took six catches in the innings, for the second Test running.

Starting their second innings after lunch on the third day with a lead of 112, South Africa lost both openers for 18. Kallis and Cullinan put on 116 with sensible batting but both fell before the close. On the fourth day, the spin bowlers, Muralitharan and Jayasuriya, bowled unchanged for 47 overs. Cronje hit three sixes but his team-mates struggled, with only 98 runs being added as six wickets fell. Nevertheless, the target of 377 in 132 overs required Sri Lanka to make their highest fourth-innings total to win.

With Jayasuriya and Mahanama out cheaply, Cronje was able to give left-arm spinner Adams plenty of bowling. Wickets fell steadily enough, and though Kaluwitharana and Wickremasinghe batted audaciously, they had no real prospect of snatching victory. Ntini yorked Wickremasinghe to end the match before tea.

Man of the Match: S. M. Pollock. Attendance: 45,010.

Close of play: First day, South Africa 298-6 ( S. M. Pollock 15*, M. V. Boucher 12*); Second day, Sri Lanka 212-5 ( H. P. Tillekeratne 2*, R. S. Kaluwitharana 13*); Third day, South Africa 155-4 ( W. J. Cronje 11*, M. V. Boucher 6*); Fourth day, Sri Lanka 120-3 ( M. S. Atapattu 50*, A. Ranatunga 14*).

© John Wisden & Co