While Keshav Maharaj understandably grabbed the headlines in the second Test against the West Indies, there was a lot to like about the fitness and form of Lungi Ngidi, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Just before Maharaj produced his moment of magic to claim a historic hat-trick against the West Indies, it was in fact Ngidi who had caught my eye.
Of course, in the first innings, the 25-year-old paceman had mirrored the efforts of Maharaj after claiming his own five-wicket haul, which was just the second time he had achieved this feat since his unforgettable six-for on Test debut against India in 2018.
Following that first-innings bowling effort against West Indies, his words of reflection spoke volumes.
“There’s been a lot of hard work behind the scenes. At some stage, my selection for the Test team was doubtful, but I’ve worked hard in the gym and on my fitness.
“The important thing was the skills side and being able to swing the ball away from batters has been useful to me. Everyone could see that it was a bit emotional for me.”
Indeed, you only have to look at Ngidi to see that he is once again looking lean and mean, and there is surely no better feeling than seeing his efforts immediately reaping rewards against the West Indies.
As someone who has struggled with injuries in the past, Ngidi is said to have changed his conditioning programmes, eating habits and adopted a new mindset in his preparations.
“I actually enjoy quarantine, compared to a lot of people,’ he explained recently. “I enjoy my own space. It’s where I can focus on the workouts I like doing, which is pretty much a whole lot of skipping …
“I’ve been working on a lot of different skills with Langes [bowling coach Charl Langeveldt], and they seem to be paying off. I’m excited to execute my skill out in the middle. It’s been a lot of hard work, so hopefully, it’s all going to pay off.”
The Proteas also look certain to emerge as the big benefactors from this “pay off”.
Over the two Tests against the West Indies, Ngidi stood tall as one of the Proteas’ most consistent performers. He bowled 13 overs in each innings of the first Test, recording a measly economy rate of 1.37 and 2.38.
He claimed another three wickets in the second Test to finish just behind Kagiso Rabada, Maharaj and Kemar Roach for most wickets taken.
Both Rabada and Maharaj should also be celebrated for their fine form after plenty of work that’s been put in prior to this series, but the sight of Ngidi powering through the popping crease is what really excites me.
He’s looking fit and in form, his pace seems to be back up towards the 140km/h mark, and the signs suggest this could be just the start of bigger and better things to come.