Mon, 06 Jul 2020

Just 12 SA Tests ... but still an eye-catching combined tally of 48 wickets for Messrs Schultz and Ngam.Schultz was never subtle, but his pure relish and full-bloodedness made him lethal.Ngam's humility and amazing dedication to his trade made it especially cruel that it all ended so early for him.

Between them, and a few years apart, they all too fleetingly enriched the Test cricket scene as pace terrorisers for South Africa.

With nine to Schultz and an even more economical three to Ngam, they accounted for a simultaneously thrilling but also seriously deflating mere dozen Test appearances on the country's post-isolation tapestry.

Just imagine if the pair had NOT been cruelly afflicted - near-constantly dogged, more accurately - by injuries?

Stories gradually filtered nationwide from the Eastern Cape that, in his advanced schoolboy years - rugby was an initially bigger passion - at Kingswood College in Grahamstown and then at UPE, an unusually heftily-built left-arm speedster with an intimidatingly high, slingshot action was causing life-preservation consternation to batsmen even of sound technique and usually plucky survival instincts.

A personal, indelible image - as a WP-tracking domestic cricket writer of the late 1980s and early '90s - was of night series derbies at the venue, and especially if EP were in the field after the dinner break.

Every now and then, given the essential nastiness he was comfortably able to muster, a Schultz bouncer might fly well above the head of gloveman Dave Richardson and thud noisily into the boundary board immediately beneath the press box.

Combining lethally with the more experience, right-arm "White Lightning", Allan Donald, the southpaw earned player of the series in a 1-0 triumph - two draws - for the visitors against the Arjuna Ranatunga-led hosts.

It seemed the take-off of a lucrative career for Schultz beneath an SA cap: instead, visits to operating theatres were more common than further appearances as he managed no more than two further Tests in the 1995 calendar year and another brace in 1997 before admitting bodily defeat after umpteen surgeries.

The wittily nicknamed "Chew" Ngam was the stark antithesis of Schultz in run-up and action.

That was despite, too, the considerable intrusion of rain (a harbinger of the heavy weather to come for Ngam personally, maybe?) in each of his first two appearances for the national team.

Aren't rookie speedsters usually as loose as they endeavour to be fast? The first-timer bucked that hallmark with exemplary figures of 19-8-34-2, including the scalps of Mark Richardson and Daryl Tuffey.

Shaun Pollock was the assassin-in-chief that day (6/30) but he had a barely less predatory sidekick in Ngam, who grabbed 3/26 and then a follow-up 3/36 in Sri Lanka's only barely more respectable second turn at the crease.

He so clearly deserved better: in a major Ngam feature on my watch as editor of SA Sports Illustrated in that 2000/01 summer, his then franchise coach and isiXhosa-fluent Adrian Birrell had enthused about Ngam's deep-rooted devotion to cricketing improvement.

What sort of statistics might Schultz and Ngam have posted if they'd earned roughly as many Test caps as, for instance, more fortunate Proteas head-hunting icons Dale Steyn (93) and Makhaya Ntini (101)?

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