Titans paceman Lungi Ngidi celebrates the dismissal of Knights opener Grant Mokoena (back) with his teammates in Centurion on Sunday. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

CENTURION – Nine overs of bowling and a full 50 overs of fielding left Lungi Ngidi “pretty buggered” on Sunday afternoon.

All the gymming, running and net-bowling in the world can’t prepare a player for the intensity of a competitive match, and Ngidi was certainly feeling the effects after his first outing in three months following a layoff with a knee injury.

His nine overs cost 35 runs and he picked up two wickets, helping his Titans team to a comprehensive nine-wicket win in their opening match of the Momentum One-Day Cup on Sunday against the Knights.

“It was good to finally get out there and test (the body), having been behind the scenes, training and doing a lot of running. It felt alright, but honestly, after the game, I’m pretty buggered,” Ngidi admitted.

That acknowledgement was accompanied with a broad smile, an indication that the exhaustion and the fact he nearly cramped towards the end of his last spell was enjoyable discomfort.

Ngidi again reflected on his frustration at spending such a lengthy time on the sidelines in a season where he was keen to build on the success he achieved following his full international introduction last summer.

Ngidi was part of the Test side in 2017/18 that beat India and Australia, toured Sri Lanka – where he was instrumental in the ODI series triumph – and then Australia last November, where he helped the Proteas win an ODI series.

That series confirmed South Africa’s bowling strategy for the the World Cup, with Ngidi a vital element.

So the knee injury picked up while fielding was terribly ill-timed, with the Proteas looking to build towards the 50-over showpiece which is now just over three months away.

“I was nervous,” Ngidi said about bowling his first over. “But that’s natural, and I did not let that get the better of me.

“I’ve been putting in the work, bowling in the nets. It was a matter of how I was going to perform. After the first over I realised, I’m back now, time to get back to work.”

Ngidi’s nine overs were split into four spells, the first three of which came in the initial power play.

“I felt like in terms of (the) areas (I bowled), I was challenging the batsmen a few times, but then there’d be the odd loose ball, but it was in the power play and they were still a bit tentative, so they didn’t dispatch that.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I do set high standards. I wasn’t particularly happy with the first wicket I got – short and wide, but I’ll take it. It’s cricket: sometimes you bowl good balls and you don’t take wickets.

“If I look at it from an international perspective, then the first few overs weren’t up to standard. My second sell was a lot better, the areas I hit, the change-ups, the yorkers... I was happy with the execution.”

If Ngidi can get through the next few matches with the Titans unscathed, he’ll be in line for a recall to the national team for the five-match series against Sri Lanka at the beginning of March.

That series is the last set of matches South Africa will play before the World Cup, by which stage Faf du Plessis and Ottis Gibson want a squad as close to the group they’ll be taking to the World Cup as possible.

The final World Cup squad will be named towards the end of April.

Meanwhile, Ngidi and the Titans next face the Dolphins at SuperSport Park on Sunday.


The Star

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