Almanac Cricket: A smiling, new South African quick

Lungi Ngidi stood on the boundary rope, resting after a successful over in his first Test match. He had just dismissed the Indian captain, Virat Kohli, the pride in his eyes unmistakable to those watching, even from afar. It was in this state that I first came familiar with Lungi, a face beaming, and blushing, in a manner that drew my own smile immediately.


I caught this moment as I was scrolling through Twitter aimlessly. The tweet contained a short 13 second clip, with which the caption read “Tfw (that feeling when) you knock over Virat Kohli on your Test debut”. The clip bore the young Lungi adjusting his new Test cap in the outfield, before realising that he was being filmed, his face plastered across the big screen at the ground. Upon this realisation, Lungi let out this wide smile, one almost of embarrassment, as if he had just been called handsome by a young crush. He looked away eventually, unable to hold his own gaze, but his smile remained, a feeling that was unable to be suppressed. His excitement was felt, the realisation of a dream that the moment surely represented.



It must have been special for Ngidi, one of many happy instances that were collected within his first Test appearance. Ushered in following generational quick Dale Steyn’s injury in the first Test of the series, the 21-year old may have easily felt overwhelmed at the prospect of replacing such a figure. He may also have felt overwhelmed by what awaited him; an opponent in India who currently sit atop the Test rankings, one that contains a batting line-up that always represents quality and talent.


His 1/51 in the first innings was an able effort, one to suggest that talent held its place somewhere within. Six wickets in the second innings, to bowl out an Indian side chasing a gettable target, was enough to land him man of the match honours, and announce himself as a new Protea gem, one with pace, and skill.


His arrival is nothing new in the realm of South African cricket, as if there’s something in the water, providing a fertile ground that continues to produce these skillful pacemen. Steyn, of course, has represented this class for the best part of a decade, to which the likes of Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander have provided more than sufficient support over several years. Just 12 months ago, with Steyn appearing to be on his last legs, a new talent in Kagiso Rabada emerged, who now, at the age of 22, can lay claim to be the no.1 Test bowler in the world, a single calendar year all that was needed for him take hold of the long-form game.


Ngidi’s story offers a compelling one. He was born into modest beginnings just outside Durban. His parents, who tendered the homes of the more affluent, flew into Johannesburg this week to view his second match, their first time within the city. I saw vision last night when watching the Test match, of their reactions to his first wicket in Centurion only days earlier. There was excitement there, but mostly a gentle pride, a reassuring sense that things have worked out well for their son. There was also Rabada’s father, buzzing around in a bright green tie with all the joy in the world. This would be a particularly happy time in their lives, you would imagine. Interestingly, he grew up as boyhood rivals with Rabada, a clash that existed within the confines of school sport. Both now have the opportunity to build their careers together, and anchor a Proteas bowling attack for the next decade.


I’ve found myself continually returning to that tweet over the last few days, craving that infectious look of happiness. It is a feeling that we have all been familiar with at times, a sense of unbriding adulation, and in a way it was refreshing to see it shown by a sports man in such a way. At the Wanderers, in the last contest of the series, he claimed the wicket of Kohli again in the first innings, that prized scalp that again must have drawn another bright smile. Despite still existing within a sense of infancy, in both life and cricket, making a habit of such feats will likely lend itself to a career that will represent longevity, and for Ngidi you hope that it will be the case.


A Test series against Australia awaits within the weeks ahead, his place in the team at the discretion of the home pitches, and the fitness of Steyn. Regardless of what may yet come for him, I hope his cricket remains as joyful as that time he sat on the boundary rope, his face beaming to the world.


Tom Harrington is a graduate of Deakin University.



  1. Great piece. I saw the interview with him after the game. Gee, he’s a likable kid.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Tom, cracking debut piece. Welcome to the site, hope we see much more of your writing.
    Ngidi is a super talent. Very impresed with him. Watched quite a bit of the South Africa v India series, was quality Test cricket. Really looking forward to Australia’s tour. Will be tough, especially for our batsmen.

  3. Tom Harrington says

    Thanks Luke, looking forward to contributing further. Agree, reckon it will be a fascinating series coming up, especially if we get similar pitches to what they had against India!

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