Lungi Ngidi is the perfect replacement for Dale Steyn in Ottis Gibson’s four-man pace attack.
The Highveld will provide a more seamer-friendly wicket than Newlands, complementing Gibson’s attacking style. The Proteas coach was clear in Monday’s press conference about how he’d like to approach the second and third Tests.
‘When you’re playing at home you play to your strengths and at the moment we have some high-quality fast bowlers,’ he said. ‘I’m a fast bowling-minded kind of coach.’
If the Proteas thought they had a selection headache with a fully-fit squad, they face another conundrum to replace Steyn. For Gibson to retain the strategy that sparked a 72-run win against India, he should select Ngidi rather than Chris Morris or Duanne Olivier.
The 21-year-old has stamina, determination, aggression and flirts with the 145 km/h mark – all the attributes needed for a great third-change option.
After a five-month injury layoff, Ngidi bowled 28 overs in a Sunfoil Series clash against the Lions in October, finishing with match figures of 9-83. His discipline and control is reflected in his first-class stats: 31 wickets, at 20.45, and an economy rate of 3.15.
There are similarities between him and Kagiso Rabada, particularly in their attitudes, egos and aspirations.
Speaking exclusively to SACricketmag.com, Ngidi spoke of his admiration for the world’s No 1 Test bowler.
‘I look up to Kagiso. How he has burst on to the scene at his age and progressed is a true inspiration. I admire the maturity he’s shown and would like to perform in a similar fashion … but as Lungi Ngidi.’
Ngidi and Rabada, a pairing certain to lead the Proteas’ next-generation, can bowl 20 overs-plus per innings while Philander and Morkel share the new-ball responsibilities.
Gibson favours a six-five split, something South Africa were cagey about in the past because Jacques Kallis made life easy for selectors to gamble down the order.
This strategy requires our top six to step up and rediscover their form after posting innings totals of 268 and 135 respectively in the Newlands Test, eliminating the need for a nuggety Temba Bavuma knock.
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