It takes a lot to stand out in a cricket culture that isn’t short on quality fast bowlers, but Lungi Ngidi has plenty of the right stuff. No doubt it helps that he is 1.93 metres tall and built like a rugby forward. Neither can he go wrong by adding a set of impeccable manners to the widest, brightest smile.
But what sets Ngidi apart is that he more than backs up all of the above with performance, most memorably when he took match figures of 7/90 on his Test debut against India in Centurion in January 2018 having been a surprise inclusion in the squad. By then he had already hogged the spotlight in a T20 rubber against Sri Lanka played the same month, taking two wickets in four balls in the first game and 4/19 in the second.
Ngidi doesn’t struggle to nudge 145 kilometres an hour, and an uncomplicated action means he isn’t often derailed by his own pace and can concentrate on maintaining his chosen line and length. That, and the ball leaving his hand at somewhere close to three metres high, makes it easy to understand why he presents a challenge to all who face him.
Ngidi is the epitome of success in modern South Africa, and not just in cricket terms. Both his parents were domestic servants and so less affluent and far from the world of elite sport. But his potential was nonetheless spotted and it brought him scholarships from prestigious junior and senior schools. And, having earned his opportunities at the highest level, he has taken them.
Injuries have taken him out of the game for significant periods — indeed, he was recovering from a side strain that kept him out of the 2019 Indian Premier League when South Africa put him in their World Cup squad — but if he can stay on the right side of fitness equation a glittering career awaits.
On England’s seaming pitches he could be a booming matchwinner, a big, bruising bowler with perhaps not quite as much talent as Kagiso Rabada but no less a threat for that.
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