With an action consciously modelled on that of Malcolm Marshall, Ntini made his South African one-day debut at Perth in early 1998, bowling well in helpful conditions and his Test debut came against Sri Lanka in the same year. He was not chosen for South Africa again until the Sharjah tournament in 2000. He devastated the West Indies in Trinidad in 2005 with 13 for 132, the best-ever match figures by a South African bowler. In the return series at home, Ntini proved a constant threat both as a wicket-taker and potential bruiser. Backed up this fine series with 20 wickets in three Tests against New Zealand, and was rightfully Man-of-the-Series. He finished the 2005-06 season with 48 Test victims.