Rumours first surfaced amongst the national squad that Makhaya had been approached by an English county several weeks ago but the word was that Surrey would be the beneficiaries of his services. Nobody took it very seriously.
Then, the night before the Newlands Test match, word broke from London that Surrey’s London rivals Middlesex had won the race to the icon’s signature. The agreement signed, however, is not a contract per se. It is a commitment to sign a contract when the details have been sorted out and finalised. That, no doubt, will be a convoluted and complicated process. Much can still change.
Ntini was given the option of returning straight home once his exclusion from the final XI was confirmed on the evening before the Test began but was undecided and chose to stay. He did, however, choose not to warm-up with the squad. Hurt and confused he may have been, but having been attracted by the prospect of a highly paid end to his career, there was little room for complaint.
He has been an inspiration for the entire decade and not until his story has been fully and properly told will the majority of his countrymen even begin to understand the sacrifices he has made to become who he is. It is now vital that his career does not end with even a semblance of bitterness or resentment. He wanted to achieve so much more, but there comes an end to all dreams. Another 10 wickets would have given him 400 Test wickets. It’s just a number. What matters far, far more is the influence he has had, and will have, on the future generations.
Paul Collingwood, meanwhile, has been freed from all pressure by his last minute passing of a fitness test and subsequent place in an unchanged XI. Fielding on the fine leg fence, ‘Colly’ took his place after tea and was promptly hailed by a member of the crowd and offered a box of sugared jelly babies.
“You don’t mind if I pick out the red ones, do you?” beamed a cheerful Collingwood as he filled both pockets. “They’re my favourites and it could be a long session!”
Catching sight of me as I returned to the press box, Colly couldn’t disguise his cheeky delight: “Life’s not so bad on the boundary, hey? I’ve been missing out for the last 15 years!”
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