'X-factor' Ngidi selection causes a buzz
Pretoria - The big news of Saturday, before Aiden Markram's classy 94 and South Africa's woeful running between the wickets stole headlines, was 21-year-old Lungi Ngidi being handed a Test debut.
It had been a toss-up between Ngidi, Duanne Olivier and Chris Morris for the fourth seamer spot at Centurion given Dale Steyn’s injury-enforced absence, but in the end the Proteas went for the young-gun and Ngidi becomes the 99th South African Test player since re-admission.
With the Proteas batting throughout the opening day of the second Test, Ngidi has not had a chance to feature yet.
Still, the selection was met with excitement as South African cricket unearths another fast bowling prospect with a bright future.
Ngidi burst onto the international stage at the beginning of 2017 when he impressed in a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, picking up six wickets.
A naturally aggressive bowler with plenty of pace, he immediately caught the eye.
But what was supposed to be a breakthrough year for Durban-born speedster quickly became a treacherous one as he battled injury throughout.
Injuries are never welcomed, but they are particularly concerning when they affect players as young as Ngidi.
As a result, there were immediately worries that he might be a player who is naturally injury-prone.
After months of rehab, Ngidi eventually made his comeback in October and hit the ground running. He has his pace back and looks physically stronger than he did before a side strain and then a problematic back ruled him out for most of last year.
"He is a guy who really does wear his heart on his sleeve and I’ve got no doubt he’s going to be fired up tomorrow when he does get his chance," Aiden Markram said of his Titans team-mate.
"He’s worked hard and it’s good to see good people getting rewarded.
"He’s got much stronger and fitter. He’s put in a lot of hard work in the gym, not just on the field."
Markram also believes that Ngidi's improved physical condition will give him a mental boost on the field.
"When you’re fit and strong you generally run in and don’t worry about getting injured," he explained.
"It’s good to see him bowling at 100% intensity. He is an x-factor bowler and we’re looking forward to seeing what he can do."
Ngidi's first duty on the Test stage is likely to be with bat in hand. The Proteas will resume their first innings on Sunday morning on 269/6.