Fleming: Pacemen made the difference

New Zealand's captain, Stephen Fleming, admitted that South Africa's pacemen had been too hot to handle, after his side were bundled to a 128-run defeat in the first Test at Centurion.
Spearheaded by Makhaya Ntini and Dale Steyn, who both bowled as much as 15 kilometres an hour faster than any of his bowlers, South Africa had the perfect weapons for a pitch of unpredictable bounce.

"You won't get too many batsmen wanting to come back and play on it," said Fleming of the Centurion wicket. "But there are times when you just have to knuckle down and grind out performances. South Africa had a couple more performances than ours."

Fleming said he hoped fast bowler Shane Bond, who could not play because of a knee injury, would be fit for the second Test starting in Cape Town on April 27. In the meantime, New Zealand have drafted in the fast bowler, Michael Mason, as cover.

"His pace does make a difference," said Fleming. "There is plenty of time but the concern is that this injury has been around for a while and there has been no real improvement."

South Africa's captain, Graeme Smith, said his team had learnt from two tough series against Australia when they lost five out of six matches, and highlighted some key performances in the middle stages of the Test.

"Jacques Kallis ground out his 62 and AB de Villiers played superbly for his 97. Then Makhaya [Ntini] and Dale [Steyn] backed it up with their bowling in the second innings." Ntini took 5 for 51 and Steyn 5 for 47.

Ntini finished with match figures of 10 for 146, and the man-of-the-match award. It was his fourth ten-wicket haul and he became the first South African to perform the feat in successive matches after taking 10 for 178 in a losing cause against Australia earlier this month.

Smith hailed Ntini's performance and said he had benefited from an enforced lay-off when a knee injury caused him to miss the second half of South Africa's tour of Australia earlier in the season.

"He bowled with pace and precision," said Smith. "There was a crack on the wicket and he worked it all day. That just tells you what sort of bowler he's become. He's a thinking bowler.

"As a captain, it's wonderful to be able to throw the ball to him. Something always happens. We just need to work on some guys to back him up."

Ntini said he had enjoyed playing the role of senior new ball bowler with a young partner in Steyn. "I had to set up a platform so he could follow. I discussed it with him yesterday when he had already taken three wickets and I had taken four. I told him we both had a chance to get five wickets."

Smith said Steyn, who touched 150kph during the match, added an extra dimension to the South African bowling attack. "He's a high-risk bowler. There are going to be days when he goes for runs but he does create opportunities and that's what we are looking for. His role is to run in and be quick. I wouldn't like to see him out of the team."

It was Steyn who provided a dramatic finale to the match by bowling the No. 11, Chris Martin, for a duck. It was South Africa's first win in eight Test matches and their first of the season after losing five out of six Tests away and at home against Australia. It was also the country's 100th win in 309 matches.