Makhaya Ntini, whose 20 wickets earned him the Man-of-the-Series award in the three-Test series against New Zealand, admitted that spearheading the bowling attack was special. With Shaun Pollock performing a back-up role and Dale Steyn relatively new to Test cricket, Ntini said that his role had taken a new dimension.
"For me as a frontliner I've been given the opportunity with the new ball to lead upfront," he told reporters after South Africa's four-wicket win at Johannesburg. "It has been one of the things that has given me motivation to show a youngster like Dale Steyn how it's done when you are given an opportunity." He added, however, that going wicketless in New Zealand's second innings was a disappointment: "It wasn't my aim to finish that way. I was looking forward to getting another 10-for at the Wanderers. Things didn't go my way, but I'll take all of that in a positive light, and not worry about it. I'm very happy, but it's not a position I wanted to finish in."
Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, acknowledged Ntini and Steyn for their role in suffocating his batsmen throughout the series. "I thought Makhaya and Dale were superb...I think the difference between us was about 10 kms of pace, " Fleming reflected. "They really bowled well and made us work very hard from ball one. That extra bit of pace on some of the wickets - especially the first Test [at Centurion] - made a big difference."
Fleming singled out certain moments in the Test that he thought were key. "Once again we had chances but South Africa won the crucial stages...I thought we did well after losing an important toss," he said. "Conditions were very tough to bat in but we pulled the game around to give ourselves a chance. Another 30-40 runs would have been nice [in the second innings of 283] but the way we started with the ball today dented any chances we had. We came here to win the series, and we weren't able to do that."
Graeme Smith, Fleming's opposite number and Man of the Match for his twin fifties, was relieved to end a difficult summer on a high note. "It was nice to bounce back [from Australia] and perform as we have," he said. "We are battle hardened after Australia and we had the key performers under pressure. We've been calm under pressure. We didn't have confidence against Australia but here we've had the confidence to make the difference."
"I love winning Tests," he added. "It's also nice to win a series again. I think a 2-0 victory is pretty convincing and we're very proud of a lot that has gone on in this Test series.