Ngidi's Desperation Earns Advantage For South Africa > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Ngidi's desperation earns advantage for South Africa
After starting with eight overs for 10 runs, the pacer picked 5 for 9 in the next 23 deliveries to ensure West Indies folded for 97.
Desperation is a beautiful thing. If it seems to always be summertime where you live, who cares if your daddy's rich and your ma's good looking? What we need to see, and feel, is evidence of struggle. Because that's how most of us live.
So it wasn't difficult to feel a connection with some of those involved in the first Test in St Lucia on Thursday. Lungi Ngidi bowled eight overs for 10 runs - hardly a struggle but a study in walking the line between hitting the headlines and not earning a mention - before he took 5/9 across 23 deliveries.
Ngidi claimed 6/39 in the second innings of his debut, against India in Centurion in January 2018. But, in his next dozen Tests, in which he bowled 1,093 balls, he did not bank another five-for. His ninth is a reward for all that perseverance.
Some wear their struggles like a plaster cast. Ngidi hides his behind a physique ripped from the pages of Gray's Anatomy, an action that makes bowling fast for a living look like filling envelopes from nine to five, and a winning smile. He had no need to hide anything on Thursday. When he was playable, he was lethal.
Initially things came more easily for Anrich Nortje, who had four wickets before Ngidi claimed his first. Together they engineered West Indies' demise for 97, their lowest total in the 29 Tests they have played against South Africa and the first time these opponents have dismissed them for fewer than 100.
By stumps the visitors had lost four wickets but were 31 runs ahead, not least because Aiden Markram endured the desperate start of his innings, when he looked like a gormless galumpher, all arms and legs and not a lot else, to nestle into something like comfort. He was undone for 60 by Jayden Seales, who is as hungry as debutants should be. Rassie van der Dussen, a Calvinist at the crease and, you suspect, everywhere else, squinted flintily into the clouded sunset for an unbeaten 34.
Markram and Van der Dussen, whose stand of 79 was more than double the size of any other and endured for almost a hundred balls more than any of the rest, were the exceptions on a day that was mean to all except seam bowlers. Dean Elgar's first innings as an appointed Test captain lasted five balls and yielded no runs. Seales' sixth delivery as a Test player was Keegan Petersen's 29th - and flew off the splice to second slip.
That's the kind of thing that should happen given a compelling attraction between a hard, stubbled pitch - juiced by drizzle before the start of play - and the proud seam of the Dukes ball. "It seems to swing all day," Ngidi told an online press conference through the dazzle of a smile that stretched clear off the screen
South Africa's bowlers refused, admirably, to get carried away with the conditions. But too often for West Indies' own good their batters' ambitions were too big for their boots, and they played shots that should keep them awake well into Friday's early hours. Their team shambled to their lowest total since Sri Lanka dismissed them for 93 in Barbados in June 2018, or 35 innings ago. Conversely, it was South Africa's best day of Test cricket since forever. Or however long you have to go back in the annals of a side who have lost 10 of their last 13 Tests. And yet ...
On Wednesday, Elgar said his players had been given choices about what to do while the West Indians were kneeling, in solidarity with the urgent, overdue, global push for social justice, before the first ball was bowled on Thursday: "So if players are comfortable with taking the knee, they may. If a player wants to use the previous gesture we had - raising the right fist - they're also entitled to do that. And if players aren't comfortable just yet they've got to stand to attention so we can still respect the campaign that's rolling out."
When the moment came, Ngidi, Petersen, Van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj and Kyle Verreynne took a knee. Elgar, Markram, Nortje and Wiaan Mulder pumped a fist.
From the outside, it looked like division in the ranks. Was it? "Not at all," Ngidi said. "We come from a diverse country, and it's not fair for me to speak for other people. Everyone's entitled to their own choices in life. There's no division at all. I think you could see today, in the way we were playing, [that] everyone's happy for everyone. We play for South Africa, and that's all we're trying to do as players."
The singular disappointment was Quinton de Kock, who stood there, casual as you like, gloved hands clasped behind his back and staring into the distance. Did he not understand the significance of what was happening around him? Or did he not care?
We can debate whether kneeling or raising a fist or standing to attention is the appropriate gesture, although kneeling surely wins: what objection could you have, seriously? But to do nothing except twiddle your thumbs behind your back will insult as many as it infuriates. Yes, De Kock has freedom of speech. So do all those who will have been appalled by his inaction. That's how democracy works.
Even so, there should be room to acknowledge De Kock's unvarnished honesty. He is a product of a society that values the few over the many like no other on earth. In this cruelly skewed unreality, the privileged don't have to think about their privilege as long as it isn't threatened. Maybe that's what De Kock was doing: not thinking about what he didn't have to think about.
You could quote CLR James on the issue. You could ask how a team drawn from a population almost as black as that of the Caribbean still does not look like the people they say they play for. Or you could wonder when enough beautiful desperation will be generated to make the livin' easier, for everyone, in the eternal summertime of cricket.
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