Ontong is one of the finest fielders in South Africa. It’s his uncanny ability to hit the wickets with direct throws from point that sets him apart.
Asked about this art, the veteran said he often worked after practice with Dieter Swanepoel, the fitness trainer, for a short while, just to improve his ability to hit the stumps. Those training sessions did not even last half an hour, but it fine-tuned his ability to focus.
While at Boland, he learned to throw at the stumps in a slightly side-on position. “AB de Villiers delivers it with his arm in the perfect position. It’s textbook,” he said admiringly.
Ontong said he prides himself in his fielding. When he was at Boland, he affected a run-out almost in every four-day game at a stage in his career.
A feature of his game has been his ability to clear the midwicket-boundary with sixes.
He learned a vital lesson from Lance Klusener, former South African all-rounder, who once said his own belief that he had the power and timing to clear the ropes despite the presence of fielders on the boundary, assisted him in his quest for more sixes.
“That self-belief is important and nowadays batsmen know they can do it, even while fielders are present on the boundaries.”
Ontong said it was vital for him to extend his attacking repertoire every season, as domestic teams use the available technology to analyse opponents in order to restrict them with clever bowling.
But that powerful pull shot or slog sweep over the midwicket-boundary is still his his signature attacking ploy to accelerate at the rate of knots.
Ontong is averaging 28.74 with the bat in List A-matches, with 71 wickets.
And those 71 wickets gives Ontong an added advantage in case the national selectors might be forced to make a change in the middle-order for the Cricket World Cup due to injuries or a dramatic loss of form.
Not only can the 34-year old bowler use his off-spinners. He can also revert to leg-spin and employ the googly to bamboozle batsmen.
Yet Ontong is very confident about the ability of the spinners at the Cobras’ disposal for Friday’s Momentum One-Day match against the Chevrolet Warriors in Port Elizabeth. “SA (Engelbrecht) and Robbie P (Robin Peterson) are bowling very well at the moment, but I will operate when needed,” he said.