'I thought I had Virat Kohli', says Lungi Ngidi

'I thought I had Virat Kohli', says Lungi Ngidi
South Africa's Lungi Ngidi celebrates with teammates after dismissing India's Parthiv Patel. (AP)
Updated 15 January 2018

'I thought I had Virat Kohli', says Lungi Ngidi

'I thought I had Virat Kohli', says Lungi Ngidi

CENTURION: Before play began in the Centurion Test, Virat Kohli, India’s captain, had called on his players to show intent. On the second day, after India had bowled South Africa out for 335, he showed the way with a classy unbeaten 85. But with no one other than Murali Vijay, the opener who made an unhurried 46, offering significant support, India were in some strife on 183 for five at stumps. Earlier, India had not helped their cause by dropping three catches off Ravichandran Ashwin in the first session, with Faf du Plessis, the South African captain, going on to make 63.
Kohli got going with a beautiful cover drive off Morne Morkel, a shot he followed up with an even better stroke down the ground. That he was out there as early as the tenth over would have dismayed him, more so because both dismissals were soft ones.
KL Rahul added 28 with Vijay before checking a straight drive off Morkel, who held on after a brief juggle. The very next ball, Cheteshwar Pujara, who was expected to play the anchor role, played the ball to mid-on and set off. Lungi Ngidi, the 21-year-old debutant, gathered and threw down the one stump he could see.
South Africa kept probing away outside Kohli’s off stump, inducing the odd false shot, but he and Vijay took India through to tea and beyond, seeing off fiery spells from Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada. Kohli drove superbly through the covers and flicked through the leg side, and played the cut occasionally against the left-arm spin of Keshav Maharaj.
Just as the partnership of 79 was starting to worry the South Africans, Maharaj provided the breakthrough. He had kept pitching outside off, tempting Vijay to cut, and one that was a bit too close to him flew off the edge and into Quinton de Kock’s gloves.
That brought in Rohit Sharma, under huge pressure to justify his place in the side ahead of Ajinkya Rahane. But after striking two fours, he fell to Rabada as he had in Cape Town, pinned on the crease by a ball that shaped into him. Then, after a bright cameo of 19, Parthiv Patel presented Ngidi with a first Test wicket, edging one that bounced high and seamed away.
With a bit of luck, Ngidi might have been celebrating snagging the big fish. When Kohli was on 71, the South Africans went up spontaneously as the first ball of his second spell thudded into Kohli’s pad. Luckily for India, Paul Reiffel, the umpire, had spotted the inside edge.
“I thought I had him,” said Ngidi with a rueful grin. “I thought he had hit the ground, so I was very confident. When I saw that edge [on the replay], I kind of dropped a bit, but I knew I had to get back on the ball.”
The morning session saw South Africa add 66, with Rabada dropped twice in two balls, and du Plessis given a reprieve when on 54. Ishant Sharma eventually dismissed both, before Ashwin (four for 113) got the wicket he deserved off a Morkel slog to long-off.
“It’s part and parcel of the game,” said Ishant after the day’s play, when asked about the missed chances. “They have taken brilliant catches for us, and I am sure they will in the future as well,” he said. “So, there is no need to panic. You just have to run hard, keep bowling and give your best to get them out.”

Good day for: Lungi Ngidi
 
After showing stout defensive technique with the bat, Ngidi, who’s built a bit like Patrick Patterson – the terrifying West Indies pace bowler of 1980s vintage – showed just what he could do with the ball. But before that, there was an exceptional piece of fielding at mid-on to send back Cheteshwar Pujara, so often the glue when the Indian batting thrives. His first four-over spell was characterised by lively pace, and steep bounce. With the first ball of his second, he nearly had the prize wicket of Kohli. Minutes later, he did get the first notch on what’s likely to be a long wicket-belt, with a beautiful delivery catching the edge of Parthiv Patel’s bat.
 
Bay day for: Ravichandran Ashwin
 
Normally, figures of 4 for 113 in the first innings of a Test in alien conditions would be something for a spinner to celebrate. But for Ashwin, any satisfaction at a job well done went hand in hand with the realisation that it could have been so much better. Kagiso Rabada had made just one, and South Africa were 289 for 7, when Ashwin drew an edge that flew to Virat Kohli’s right at slip. He couldn’t hold on. The very next ball, Rabada chose the gung-ho option, and the ball looped up to point where Hardik Pandya out down the catch after Mohammed Shami ran into his path. Then, with Faf du Plessis on 54, Parthiv Patel missed a thin edge behind the stumps. Both the batsmen eventually fell to Ishant Sharma.