CENTURION – Sometimes, in the hurly-burly of a Test match, it is easy to forget that matters in the middle concern humans with feelings and dreams and genuine delight at a life’s worth of plans coming together.
The bustling fast bowler’s baggy green cap was handed over by someone who is almost as proud as Ngidi was at being selected for the Test, on a ground they share.
Aiden Markram did the honours, with the most ‘bromantic’ of hugs.
Ngidi earned his first Test cap on Saturday morning, but though he sang the anthem and was on the team-sheet, it wouldn’t quite have counted until he ran in, let loose, and got the thrill of doing the business that got him to this elevated point.
“It was a dream, really,” he beamed. “To make my debut, on my home ground, it was a dream.”
Ngidi wore a smile as loud and proud as the cheer that rang around Centurion when he ran Cheteshwar Pujara out, even before he bowled his first ball in Test cricket.
“I didn’t think he was going to run,” he said of the Indian number three.
“He just hit it and set off, so I was worried about getting my angles right. I slipped a little, but then I saw that he was still a long way away,” he smiled.
The run out, a direct hit from mid-on, was an appetiser chucked in as a bonus on the day he finally took the field for South Africa.
His teammates enveloped him in the joy of removing one of India’s most obstinate bricks without scoring, and the crowd delighted in Ngidi stepping up, even before he was required to “step up”.
When he did get the ball, it was to run into one of the game’s foremost batsmen, Virat Kohli. He gathered the butterflies dancing in his (former) belly, and delivered a maiden.
He thought he actually had foxed Kohli into a leg-before, but the Indian skipper was saved by the thinnest of inside edges.
“I nearly got him! I thought I had him,” Ngidi winced, no doubt still cursing the fine margins that dictate the game that occupies his every waking day.
And then, of course, he did get his maiden wicket. It wasn’t Kohli just yet, but the manner of dismissal of Parthiv Patel – caught behind with an edge outside off – chortled him no end.
“I had actually spoken to Vernon (Philander) and he had talked me through how to get him out. Listening to someone with so much knowledge, and then executing, it really made me feel like I can play at this level.”
It was a small moment in a career with huge potential, but there was more than a flutter of excitement across the Pretoria crowd when he got chucked the ball for the first time.
Kagiso Rabada on one end, Ngidi on the other… it was a small moment, but it wasn’t lost on the masses in the crowd – of all races.
“This is pretty cool, ne?” said one Johan to his mate, over a beer and the scene.
It was cool, on and off the field, in fact. The cricket gods do have a sympathetic bone, after all.
After Saturday’s sweltering conditions at Centurion, Sunday was an altogether more sensible occasion, with splashes of cloud cover, a consistent breeze – and enough water to last the entire day.
Indeed, things got so cool that Minister of Sport and Recreation Thulas Nxesi made an appearance in the pampered seats.
There, too, was the normally sharper than a razor Blade Nzimande, though he looked as if he had enjoyed the hospitality more than some.
It was some day at Centurion.