DateLine: 5th December 2008
Neil McKenzie was a stalwart in South Africa's middle-order for four years in the early 2000s, despite a less-than-promising start as an opening batsman in Sri Lanka in 2000.He made his maiden Test and ODI centuries against New Zealand and Sri Lanka respectively during the summer of 2000-01 and was able to take advantage of the confusion over the roles of Daryll Cullinan and Jonty Rhodes to establish himself as a more-or-less permanent fixture in both teams. Questions were asked of his ability to cope with the very best spinners, but not enough to warrant his three-and-a-half year exile from the side from March 2004, at a time when he ought to have been at the height of his career. He was eventually recalled to face West Indies at Cape Town in January 2008. Neat and economical at the crease, McKenzie is particularly strong on the leg side. On the tour of Bangladesh which followed, he was involved in a world record opening stand of 415 with his captain Graeme Smith. He followed it up with a brilliant tour of India where he was one of the leading run scorers in that series and helped South Africa draw the series 1-1. Prior to South Africa's tour of England, where again he was one of the architects of South Africa's first series win over England in the post Apartheid era. He along with Graeme Smith have become one of the best openers in world cricket today.