“People are always fighting for spots, you can’t get comfortable or complacent,” says Lungi Ngidi. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

PRETORIA – Lungi Ngidi will be available for the Titans’ opening Momentum One-Day Cup game this weekend, marking the end of a frustrating 10 weeks on the sidelines as he completed rehabilitation for a knee injury.

Ngidi is bursting at the seams to get going again after sustaining the injury while fielding during the one-off T20 International against Australia on the Gold Coast last November.

It meant he missed the inaugural Mzansi Super League and all three series against Pakistan.

“I’m ahead of schedule, which is good,” he said about his return to the playing arena at the weekend.

“I just can’t wait to get back on the field. The timing of the injury was unfortunate. It was just before the MSL, it was frustrating.”

The Titans open their One-Day Cup campaign against the Knights at SuperSport Park on Sunday, and the franchise’s coach Mark Boucher will be delighted to have the 22-year-old back.

Ngidi’s injury caused Boucher some frustration too, as he was a key part of the Tshwane Spartans plans in the MSL.

In his absence, the Spartans struggled, finishing fifth in the six-team tournament.

Ngidi has been with the South African squad from the start of the One-Day series with Pakistan, doing fitness drills and bowling a few balls in the nets.

Should he get through Sunday’s match without hassle, he’ll most likely be called up to the squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka that begins in Durban on February 13.

Whether he’ll start is another issue. In his absence, the national selectors have given opportunity to a number of other quick bowlers.

Duanne Olivier earned the Man of the Series award for claiming 24 wickets against Pakistan in the Test matches.

And in the One-Dayers and the first two T20 Internationals, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks and Lutho Sipamla have all been given a run.

“I’m okay with it. I’m injured – there is nothing I can do about it. There’s a bit of frustration, but the guys are doing well.

“I’m happy for them and all the best to them. I’m looking to get back from the injury.”

There had been talk about bringing Ngidi back for the T20s against Pakistan, but that was shelved by the national side’s management, who felt that with Ngidi already being ahead of schedule with his rehab, there was no need to rush him at all.

What the last few weeks have shown is the depth available in South African cricket, and the options are giving the selectors and the Proteas brains-trust the opportunity to assess combinations and playing patterns.

“We have a lot more depth than people probably thought and it’s good competition. People are always fighting for spots, you can’t get comfortable or complacent. It’s good to have someone keeping you on your toes,” Ngidi said.

He has only played 13 One-Day Internationals, but he’s already become central to the Proteas’ plans at this year’s World Cup.

Faf du Plessis has made no secret of the fact that playing four primarily wicket-taking bowlers – Ngidi, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir – is the way to go for South Africa in England.

Ngidi’s impact has been so notable that in his absence, Du Plessis believes they can’t utilise the same formula for their starting XI.

At various points in the series against Pakistan, either an extra batsman was brought into the Proteas team, or two or even three seam bowling all-rounders were used.

“We all bring different things to the table,” Ngidi said of bowling in tandem with Rabada and Steyn. “Everyone is 100 percent committed to making sure that every time we go out there, we hunt as a pack.

“We like to set the tone, put people under pressure. So far, it’s worked.

“Working as a trio has been beneficial for us, and feeding off Dale’s experience has helped us a lot.”

@shockerhess


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