Lungi Ngidi will be fit for the next Proteas game against Afghanistan on Saturday. Photo: Matthew Childs/Action Images via Reuters

SOUTHAMPTON - Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers “are still friends”. That was possibly the most fascinating thing to come out of a drenched day at the Hampshire Bowl in Southampton on Monday.

And the fact that South Africa, of course, got their horse out of the shed.

They are on the board. They have a point. And, most importantly, they live to fight another day, which will be this coming Saturday against Afghanistan at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff.

There has been plenty of speculation that De Villiers’ proposed international comeback, only to be vetoed by Cricket South Africa, put plenty of strain on Du Plessis.

It was the national skipper that De Villiers called first about his intentions, which were ultimately rebuffed.

Having been friends since their school days at Afrikaans Hoërskool (Affies) in Pretoria, there were fears that this turn of events could effectively end their friendship.

“AB and I are still friends. This incident has not changed that. This is a small thing for a friendship that goes way back,” Du Plessis said. 

It was clear that the SA skipper had bigger issues to be perturbed about. There is no space for any more hiccups after the washed-out encounter with the Windies.

In the short time that the players were out on the field – 7.3 overs to be exact – South Africa lost both Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock, which once again created a sense of uncertainty.

Du Plessis acknowledges that it’s squeaky-bum time.

“It is very clear for us as a team we need to be at our best and we need to play well in the next five games,” he said.

“We have got Afghanistan next, which are also a dangerous team. We need to start playing better cricket, more consistent and more solid cricket.

“If we do that, and the results start one by one happening, then this team will get a lot of confidence from that for the later stages.”

After a week that saw Dale Steyn return to South Africa due to his injured shoulder and Lungi Ngidi ruled out of both matches here in Southampton, there is a least some sort of relief heading to Cardiff.

Ngidi has recovered and will be available for selection to face Afghanistan. 

“We wanted him to be ready for today, purely from the fact it feels every game is a must-win game for us at the moment.

“With Lungi, the amount of bowling that he’s been doing this tournament, he hasn’t bowled a lot and then he picks up an injury, and it is probably on the verge of can he and can’t he play? Du Plessis said.

“So, the pure fact is that he hasn’t really bowled a lot of overs. We just feel like it is more important for him to just have another three or four days to build-up his loads again, so he can bowl eight, nine, 10 overs.

“And luckily for us today there wasn’t a lot of cricket, so we can throw him straight into the game (in) the next game.”

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@ZaahierAdams


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