Ten at Lord's

Sealing it with a kiss: Makhaya Ntini, after his 10-wicket haul AFP

Makhaya Ntini is the only South African so far to have his name on the ten-wicket board at Lord's. It came on Ntini's second tour to the United Kingdom, in 2003, by when he had established himself as one of the leaders of the bowling attack. He had shown the willingness to match his great skill, and had the opportunity to show off that combination in the second Test of the series.

After a draw in Birmingham, Ntini took a five-for in the first innings at Lord's to bowl England out for 173. But he does not dwell too long on that innings, since Graeme Smith's 259 overshadowed any bowling effort by that stage of the match. The pitch had flattened and South Africa declared on the third day with a lead of 509 runs.

The instruction was clear: they did not want to bat again. "Corrie van Zyl came to me and said, 'Now it's all up to you, you can get ten wickets here,' Ntini says. "He took me by the shoulder and showed me the board with the names of the people who had got ten wickets and one of the names there was my hero, Malcolm Marshall. At that stage, in my head I took on the responsibility of the game. I asked myself, 'What to do I want to achieve here?' The most important thing was not to draw."

Getting a victory would require a massive effort from the South African pace attack, which was missing the young Dewald Pretorius, who was only able to bowl seven overs in the match because of a niggle. "I had a heavy load on myself and I also had my own target - to get ten wickets at Lord's," Ntini says.

He had the belief. "[Marcus] Trescothick was the one wicket I knew I would get. He was a left-hander and I had clean-bowled him in the first innings."

And he had the energy. "I finished the innings with 31 overs. That was a lot of hard work for a fast bowler. Graeme knew I never said no. Even if he called me back and I had just finished a spell, I was always willing to work for him and win the game for him."

"We were close to tea and I got Nasser Hussain out, so we were getting there." And then Ntini gave South Africa the breakthrough. "Alec Stewart came in at No. 6, and I had him caught second ball. We knew if we could get that one, we'd be in a good position. It was part of the excitement - to go off for tea knowing you had got another wicket," he says.

Shaun Pollock dismissed Anthony McGrath, but there was still someone standing in South Africa's way. "[Andrew] Flintoff was the hero of England cricket. When he hit fours, the crowds would go berserk," Ntini says. They also went berserk when Ntini shattered Flintoff's bat from handle to toe so that the two halves parted like the proverbial Red Sea.

"The crowd was unbelievable," Ntini remembers. "They were cheering like you can't believe. I went to my fielding position on the boundary and everyone was standing up and clapping. It was hero against hero. It was us against him. He was the only one. We knew that if we got him out, the game would be over."

With the wicket of Ashley Giles, Ntini had nine for the match. When he got Steve Harmison caught in the slips, Ntini sank to his knees to kiss the hallowed ground. "I couldn't do any more. I was overjoyed. I was excited that the mission had been accomplished. I was over the moon. Even now, when I look at the pictures in my lounge, I feel proud, although I wonder, 'What the hell was I thinking to kiss the pitch?'

"But still, ten wickets at Lord's. There've been so many South Africans who have been there and played there and no one else has done it."

It was Paul Adams who eventually broke through Flintoff's defences and had him stumped to give South Africa a series lead.

"Our families were with us, so there was no boys' time afterwards," Ntini says. "We had some time at the ground where we stood on the balcony and put our flags. I don't care who says what, Lord's is one of the best dressing rooms."

But Ntini's efforts were largely overlooked by the English media, who footnoted it after Flintoff's fighting century. It was referred to in the sixth paragraph of the Telegraph's match report. Ntini himself did not see the achievement as one signalling greatness, because he still hadn't completely cemented his place in the squad. "I never felt in a comfort zone. For me it was always that I needed to work even harder to compete with the young stars that came in."

Ntini's advice to the team this time is that everybody should feel secure, which he feels they have not been in the past. "The whole team needs to bind together, one frame of mind, one thought. They need to make sure we are together at all times. They must protect one another. That's one thing we have always lacked, we always want to expose one another, which is wrong. If there are any holes that they see can crack the team, they need to make sure that they close it as quickly as possible without pointing fingers."

He thinks the person who could decide the series is a man he will "always be friends with", Mark Boucher. He could hardly have imagined Boucher would be out of the series before it got underway. "He mentioned that the tour is his last," Ntini says. "He must not put himself under pressure but he must go there and enjoy himself and show people why he is the best wicketkeeper in the world."