Marco Jansen of South Africa celebrates with teammates after getting the wicket of KL Rahul of India during day 1 of the 2nd Test match against India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Marco Jansen of South Africa celebrates with teammates after getting the wicket of KL Rahul of India during day 1 of the 2nd Test match against India at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Monday. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Lungi Ngidi leads the way for the Proteas despite going wicketless

By Stuart Hess Time of article published Jan 3, 2022

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Johannesburg — Marco Jansen led the South African players off the field at the end of the Indian innings on Monday afternoon - understandably so.

Playing in just his second Test, Jansen picked up 4/31 in 17 overs. He bowled with hostility, accuracy and displayed fantastic skill in controlling the movement he extracted off the surface.

But he wasn’t South Africa’s best bowler on Monday. That distinction went to a teammate who bowled six fewer overs than the 21 year old and took no wickets.

If you needed to understand why Lungi Ngidi was the Proteas top bowler on the first day of this second Test, then you only needed to see where Dean Elgar sprinted to after Jansen had claimed the game's first wicket. Elgar headed away from the jubilant team huddle adjacent to the stumps and bounded down to fine leg where he and Ngidi exchanged ‘high fives’ and a hug.

Last week it took South Africa’s bowlers a full session to determine the best way to build pressure on India’s batters. Here it took 45 minutes.

That was how long played had lasted until Ngidi, playing just his second match in the last five months, was brought onto bowl from the Corlett Drive End, replacing Duanne Olivier.

It wasn’t that Olivier and his new ball partner Kagiso Rabada were wasting the new ball, just that they were both searching; for the right line, but especially the correct length. India’s openers, KL Rahul, captaining here after Virat Kohli withdrew because of back spasms, and Mayank Agarwal, were composed with only the odd delivery causing any hassles. One of those the South Africans referred for a caught behind, but umpire Alluhdien Paleker, making his Test debut here, was proved correct by the TV replays, with the ball brushing Rahul’s sleeve.

The 36 runs India scored in that first hour, were a few too many. But by the time of the mid-morning drinks, South Africa had been shown the way.

Ngidi had from the first ball he bowled locked in on a length that had both Indian openers ‘feeling’ outside off stump. It was an awkward length that demanded caution when going forward while there wasn’t much opportunity for scoring off the back foot. Ngidi banged away at that length and at the drinks break no doubt shared that information with his teammates.

With the first ball after that minibreak, Jansen found that ‘Ngidi length’, inducing a drive from Agarwal that was edged behind to give Kyle Verreynne his first Test catch as a wicketkeeper. Elgar and Ngidi had their brief celebration, before joining the rest of the troops. South Africa had the blueprint.

Olivier replaced Ngidi, found that same length, got a bit of extra bounce and had his first two Test wickets in three years before lunch. South Africa were in the ascendency and, but for some resistance from Rahul, who made a patient 50 and a more flamboyant 46 from Ravi Ashwin, dominated through the afternoon.

Officially listed as standing 2.03m in his socks, Jansen obtains natural bounce from that height. He also moves the ball both ways off the surface and clocked 140km/h on Monday. South Africa does appear to have a rich talent at its disposal, and the fact that he was picked over Wiaan Mulder at Mulder’s home ground, illustrates how much he impressed on debut last week. He’s a capable batter too as his first innings in Centurion suggested.

Monday was his moment with the ball, with the highlight of the day a setup and dismissal of Rishabh Pant that would have made a player of greater experience very proud.

Jansen had Pant pinned at one end, bowling a maiden at him and then had another few deliveries all of which had slanted away from the left-hander. Then came the one going the other way, which Pant nicked allowing Verreynne to take a good low catch behind.

South Africa’s bowlers did just what their skipper would have wanted after the toss had gone India’s way. The improvements seen from session to session and first innings to second at Centurion, continued here and while he went wicketless, Ngidi led the way, and Elgar knew it.

SCORECARD

India first innings 202 (KL Rahul 50, Ravichandran Ashwin 46, Marco Jansen 4/31, Kagiso Rabada 3/64)

South Africa first innings 35/1 (Keegan Petersen 14*, Dean Elgar 11*, Mohammed Shami 1/15)

South Africa trail by 167 runs

@shockerhess

IOL Sport

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