TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
LUNGI Ngidi has bowled his way into South Africa’s squad for the first three one-day internationals against Sri Lanka.
Durban-born Titans fast bowler Ngidi made his international debut in the current T20 series against the Lankans, and has not struggled to look at home at the highest level.
He struck twice in four balls at Centurion on Friday and claimed 4/19 at the Wanderers on Sunday, making him the leading wicket-taker in the series.
Ngidi also has the lowest average and the best economy rate among bowlers who have sent down at least three overs in the rubber.
Or, as South Africa’s T20 captain, Farhaan Behardien, said after Sunday’s game: “I think a superstar is born: he seems to thrive in the limelight.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him – he’s only 20 years old – but if he keeps his head he’ll have a long career.
“He bowled out of his skin; he bowled with good pace and good bounce even on a slowish wicket.
“A lot has come fast for him. He’s been the standout bowler in two T20 Challenge finals and in his first T20 internationals.
“If managed properly and looked after there’s every chance he’ll play every format for South Africa.”
Ngidi dismissed the Dolphins’ Kevin Pietersen in the one over he bowled in the 2015 franchise T20 final, and removed the Warriors’ Colin Ingram and Colin Ackermann in the 2016 edition of the same match.
Tall and rawboned and blessed with a fast bowler’s presence, he has claimed 21 wickets – among them two five-wicket hauls – at 23.80 in his seven first-class games.
“Ngidi has been rewarded for his excellent form in the current T20 series and we are keen to see how he goes in the 50-over format,” a Cricket South Africa statement on Monday quoted selection convenor Linda Zondi as saying.
“He has not only impressed with the wickets he has taken and the skills he has displayed but with the energy and intensity he has brought to his game as well.”
Ngidi’s captain in the ODIs will be AB de Villiers, who because of an elbow injury is set to play for South Africa for the first time since June in the third T20 against Sri Lanka at Newlands on Wednesday.
Chris Morris, who has been out with a knee problem since June, is back in the mix for the ODIs.
But Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are not because of lingering shoulder and back problems.
Other casualties from the squad who thrashed Australia 5-0 in October, South Africa’s most recent engagement in the format, were Aaron Phangiso, Kyle Abbott and Rilee Rossouw.
Left-arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi has been preferred to the left-arm orthodox Phangiso, while CSA have cut ties with Abbott and Rossouw because they will soon become Kolpak players.
The five-match series, which starts at St George’s Park on Saturday, is key to South Africa’s preparations for the Champions Trophy in June.
“We are entering a very important phase of our preparation for the Champions Trophy tournament in England as we only have 10 (ODIs) left – the five here against Sri Lanka and another five in New Zealand – before we head for another major ICC (International Cricket Council) event,” the statement quoted Zondi as saying.
AB de Villiers (captain), Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Lungi Ngidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi.
Saturday, Jan 28: 1st ODI, St George’s Park (10am)
Wednesday, Feb 1: 2nd ODI, Kingsmead (1.30pm)
Saturday, Feb 4: 3rd ODI, Wanderers (1.30pm)
Tuesday, Feb 7: 4th ODI, Newlands (1.30pm)
Friday, Feb 10: 5th ODI, Centurion (1.30pm)