Ken Borland
Sports Journalist
2 minute read
26 Dec 2021
3:10 pm

Ngidi double strike keeps Proteas in the hunt against India

Ken Borland

Turning South Africa’s fortunes around after lunch, Ngidi grabbed two wickets in two balls.

CENTURION, SOUTH AFRICA - DECEMBER 26: the Proteas celebrate the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara of India during day 1 of the 1st Betway WTC Test match between South Africa and India at SuperSport Park on December 26, 2021 in Centurion, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Lungi Ngidi turned to off-cutters as shrewd vehicles for change, but India still cruised to 157/2 at tea on the first day of the first Test against South Africa in Centurion on Sunday.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, India openers Lokesh Rahul and Mayank Agarwal put on a superb 117 for the first wicket, taking advantage of the scattered lines and lengths of an underdone Proteas bowling attack.

The South African attack, already deprived of the injured Anrich Nortje, was also without Duanne Olivier, the in-form paceman in domestic cricket.

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The Central Gauteng Lions star, according to sources close to the team, contracted Covid recently and team management were not satisfied that he has had sufficient bowling loads since then in order to make it through a five-day Test.

It meant Ngidi, who had bowled only seven competitive overs since July, was pressed into service and was understandably rusty.

But he turned South Africa’s fortunes around after lunch, which India took on 83/0, with two wickets in two balls.

He broke the nearly three-hour long opening stand with an off-cutter which snaked back into Agarwal’s pads, striking him above the roll. South Africa’s lbw appeal was turned down, but they reviewed and the replays showed the ball hitting the top of leg-stump, much to the batter’s surprise.

Agarwal had scored 60, a positive innings which included nine fours and helped to establish some early dominance for the tourists.

Cheteshwar Pujara replaced the outgoing batsman and his first delivery from Ngidi was also an off-cutter, but this one bounced more than expected, taking the shoulder of his bat and going on to his pad.

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Keegan Petersen completed the catch by dashing in from backward short-leg.

Ironically, Ngidi had run Pujara out first ball on India’s previous visit to Centurion, in 2018.

India did not ail for long though as Rahul stuck to his compact game-plan and went to 68 not out at the break.

Virat Kohli was flexing his muscles like that guy in the gym on January 2, and the Indian captain looked threatening on 19 not out.

Their partnership was already worth 40 going into the final session of the opening day.