London — Lungi Ngidi was one of six Proteas playing in their first ever Cricket World Cup fixture on Thursday, and he acknowledges he found the going tough in the early stages.
South Africa, full of promise, were outplayed in every department.
As well as they fielded, England fielded better. As well as they bowled, England bowled better. The batting wasn’t even a contest.
The Proteas were happy with having restricted England to 311/8 from their allotted 50 overs, but being bowled all out for 207 highlighted the gulf between these two sides at the moment.
The talk around South Africa in the build-up to the showpiece has centred around their fast bowling unit.
They want to bowl sides out.
It doesn’t help, of course, that Dale Steyn is injured.
Even without their most experienced quick, South Africans were still hopeful that in Kagiso Rabada and Ngidi they boasted one of the most potentially destructive new ball pairings at the tournament.
A surprise by Faf du Plessis saw leg-spinner Imran Tahir take the first over – and he produced a wicket with just the second ball of the match – but there was no reward for Rabada or Ngidi early on.
Both came back strongly to pick up five wickets between them, but there was no success with the new ball.
Ngidi was 0/27 in his first four-over spell and then got slammed for back-to-back Eoin Morgan sixes to be 0/45 after six.
“I was very disappointed with my bowling performance up front. One of my key components is to bowl with the new ball and take wickets and today wasn’t that day,” the 23-year-old Ngidi acknowledged after the match.
He bounced back superbly at the back-end of the innings, though, picking up three wickets and going for just 21 runs in his final four overs to finish with 3/66 .
“I had to stay in the game. I knew they were a team that would be coming hard at us, so the death was just as important as the (opening) powerplay,” he added.
“I think I might have been overthinking it. All of the talk was how they post totals of 350, so maybe that was the thought at the back of my mind.
“But there were a few opportunities in that powerplay and you start to realise that these people are human, just like me.
“From then on I focused on what I was doing and forgot about them.”
Ngidi and Rabada are massive cogs in the Proteas machine, and they will have to deliver more up front as the tournament progresses.
The impact of doing damage with the new ball was perfectly illustrated by Jofra Archer, who blew away the Proteas top order in his opening spell by dismissing Aiden Markram and Du Plessis while he also effectively retired Hashim Amla with a sickening blow to the head.
“He bowled well. He’s quick and was very accurate today,” Ngidi said of Archer.
The good news is that there are still eight pool matches to go and Ngidi has time to make his mark.
Watching Archer rip through his team-mates will serve as motivation.
“Fast bowlers are always competitive,” Ngidi said.
“Today was his day and we all have our days, so I’m waiting for mine to come.
“He was able to get crucial wickets at crucial stages and that is part of my job in this team.”
The Proteas are next in action when they take on Bangladesh at The Oval on Sunday in what has quickly become a must-win.
@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 …
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Publish date : 2019-05-31 11:58:46