Lungi Ngidi expects testing time, with surprises, for Proteas in Pakistan

14 January 2021 - 14:56 By mahlatse mphahlele
Lungi Ngidi celebrates the wicket of Dhanajaya de Silva of Sri Lanka with captain Quinton de Kock during the fourth ODI at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on August 8 2018.
Lungi Ngidi celebrates the wicket of Dhanajaya de Silva of Sri Lanka with captain Quinton de Kock during the fourth ODI at Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on August 8 2018.
Image: Sameera Peiris/Gallo Images

Proteas fast bowler Lungi Ngidi suspects that Pakistan may go the unusual way and prepare seam-friendly pitches for their two-match Test series in Karachi and Rawalpindi.

The Proteas leave on Friday evening for their first trip to Pakistan in 14 years with a youthful team made up of players who have never played a Test match or who have never visited that country.

The 24-year-old Ngidi said their hosts may be tempted to prepare pitches that will assist their fast bowlers Mohammad Abbas‚ Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah.

If they go the usual route of preparing slower and turning tracks‚ the responsibility of getting wickets will fall largely on front-line spinners Yasir Shah‚ Sohail Khan and Zafar Gohar.

Keshav Maharaj will then also be expected to play a bigger role for SA with ball in hand.

“We do know that they have a few fast bowlers who have done well for them. Maybe the wickets won’t be as slow as people think and that could play into our hands‚” Ngidi said.

“It just depends on how they want to prepare their wickets for this series. The subcontinent is always a difficult place to go and play Test cricket. You need to come with the right attitude and be prepared to work hard‚” he added.

Due to Covid-19 the Proteas are unlikely to play practice matches to acclimatise to the conditions but that does not bother Ngidi.

“Practice games are usually just to get some time on the legs if you haven’t played in a while but it’s a quick turnaround from the Sri Lanka series. I think everyone will be ready for the series — it’s is a matter of getting on the field and executing game plans.

“There are a few senior batsmen in our team who have played all over the world and they know their games well enough.

“In our bowling line-up we are fortunate to have someone like Kagiso “KG” Rabada who we can actually bounce ideas off. Also, some members of our coaching staff have played a lot of cricket. So there is experience there.”

Leading SA's seam attack will be Rabada‚ Ngidi and Anrich Nortjé‚ who are aged 25‚ 24 and 27 respectively.

“The pressure of leading the attack is different for everyone‚” Ngidi said.

“For me I don’t see it as pressure but more as responsibility because I have come through behind guys like Dale Steyn‚ Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander. Those are the guys who when I started were pretty much well into their careers.

“I learnt a lot from them in terms of how to handle certain situations‚ how to go about game plans and for me I just feel like we are continuing where they left off. Being young gives us more time to keep performing for SA and it is more of an honour than pressure for me.”

Ngidi has identified Pakistan batting mainstay Babar Azam as the danger man.

“Babar Azam has been outstanding for them since he came through to the international scene‚” the bowler said. “He is their main guy with the bat and if we can strangle every other batsman‚ it will put a lot of pressure on him to score the runs. You will never know what pressure does to certain players.

“We have game plans for situations that we are going to face from their batsmen. If one thing is not working, you try something else. Subcontinent conditions are different to the Wanderers, where all your wickets are caught behind either to the slips or keeper.

“Maybe this time we will have catches in front of the bat‚ different stuff like that - but you have to keep pressure on the team because that is what Test cricket is about. It is about putting pressure for as long as possible.”