Lungi Ngidi finally was allowed to partake in a fielding drill with the rest of his South Africa teammates. After spending all of last week training only with the support staff to shrug off his hamstring injury, the fast bowler passed a fitness test at Edgbaston on Monday morning, clearing him to play the crucial group stage game against New Zealand.
Faf du Plessis had been uncertain of the speedster's match readiness ahead of the team's last two games, against West Indies and Afghanistan, but the 23-year-old declared himself "ready to play"
"I just finished a fitness today and I passed that. So I'm match-fit ready," Ngidi said. "It's 100%. That's how a fitness test goes. If you are not bowling at a 100%, then you are not ready to play, so today was as hard as I could go in match intensity. That's all that I can bring to the game as well, and that's what is expected."
We still have to look at them properly
Ngidi's timely return to fitness is a big boost for South Africa, who face potentially four must-win games, starting with the Wednesday's clash against their conquerors in last World Cup's semifinal. New Zealand, despite their blemish-free start to the campaign, aren't bereft of batting insecurities. In their three match wins, James Neesham's 25 is the highest score for a New Zealand batsman batting beyond No.5, an area of their game Ngidi wants to expose.
"Well, we still have to look at them properly in our team meeting. So far at the moment, I don't think their lower-order and middle-order batters have been tested enough. Most of the guys have scored runs at the top of the order. You know, get their guys upfront and get their middle order in as soon as possible and you could be looking at a different situation when you look at their batting," he said.
Ngidi also hopes his team will do the necessary course correction to bowl the required "five metre lengths" on a surface expected to play slightly slow. One of South Africa's Achilles' heel in the tournament so far has been a propensity of their fast bowlers to bowl a fraction too short. Ngidi himself was guilty of it during his short bowling stint before his injury in the defeat to Bangladesh.
"On that day, we went a lot shorter than should have," Ngidi said. "That happens on a day. Credit to them, they took advantage of that and were pretty much able to post a pretty decent total and were able to defend. With me going off, obviously I didn't bowl my quota of overs and someone had to fill in. That didn't work out in our favour. From that I thought, not that I wanted to get injured, I felt I let the team down a bit.”