When South Africa sealed the series against Sri Lanka after winning the third consecutive ODI on Sunday, there was one unsung hero in their line-up. While all the headlines were hogged by debutant Reeza Hendricks for smashing a century on debut, there was one man who went about his job silently and inflicted immense damage. That man was none other than Lungi Ngidi, who scalped four wickets to break the Sri Lankan spine on a surface, that had immense help for the batsmen. After sealing the five-match series with three wins, South Africa will now aim to clean sweep Sri Lanka.
Talking about the third game, South African bowlers did a good job in restricting the star-studded Sri Lankan batting in their own den. South Africa have donned a totally new look in the ODI series after being thrashed in the Tests. One of the main reasons behind their emphatic comeback in the ODI series has been their impactful bowling. South African bowlers have done a remarkable job and have been equally backed by their batsmen. In the first two games, the conditions were inclined towards the bowlers and South African bowlers did well in restricting the home side to modest totals.
The pitch at Kandy was more helpful for the batsmen, which posed a challenge for the bowlers. But South African bowlers managed to dominate the proceedings with the ball. Ngidi’s graph on this tour has witnessed a serious hike with time. After chipping just one wicket in the solitary Test that he played, Ngidi has been on a roll in the ODIs. He has made the adjustment quite well and has been hitting the right length. A bowler of his calibre can make the batting side look like sitting ducks on his day.
South African batsmen racked up a record total of 363 in their 50 overs. It would have been foolish to write Sri Lanka off as the conditions were batting-friendly and Sri Lanka had the batting to chase down such a mammoth total. It was pivotal for South Africa to chip early wickets and push Sri Lanka on the backfoot right from the outset. Ngidi steamed in and got rid of Sri Lankan openers with the new ball to steer his side to total command. Sri Lanka needed their openers to fire in order to pose any threat, but Ngidi had other ideas.
Sri Lanka were two down for a mere score of 37 as Ngidi continued to deliver a memorable spell. He steamed in with immense confidence and bowled with flair. Moments later, Andile Phehlukwayo got the better of Dilruwan Perera to put Sri Lanka in all sorts of trouble. Mendis was building an innings and looked promising amidst all the trouble. Just when a partnership was building for Sri Lanka, Ngidi inflicted more damage by getting rid of Mendis.
Later, he also got the better of Suranga Lakmal to have four wickets under his belt. It is not very often when a bowler like Kagiso Rabada is just a viewer while all the action is happening out in the middle. The fact that Ngidi was the centre of attraction while Rabada remained wicketless was astonishing. In saying so, no credit is being taken away from Rabada, it’s just one of those off days in office. He did bowl well but was unfortunate to not have a wicket to his name.
Sri Lanka were bowled out for 285 in 45.2 overs as South Africa won the contest by 78 runs. Ngidi so far has scalped eight wickets from three games, which is a clear indication of his adaptability in the sub-continent conditions. He is equally effective with the new ball as well as in the death overs. He is certainly one of the most promising talents in South Africa and nicely growing into a dominating force for his side across formats. He has done well in the longest format of the game too and provided that cushion to South Africa’s bowling department.
South Africa have a formidable bowling with the presence of impactful bowlers like Ngidi, Rabada, Phehlukwayo. The only place where they would want to pull up would be their batting keeping in mind the upcoming World Cup. For Ngidi, he continues to develop into a versatile bowler for South Africa.