The news hasn’t been leaked from the South African huddle, but it is safe to say that Lungi Ngidi would have had goose pimples late on Tuesday evening. A previous case of the same bumps on the skin just 48 hours ago firms the assumption. On Day 2 of the Test, the young South African pace debutant had spoken about getting “goosepimples” on getting his first Test wicket — Parthiv Patel getting out to a ball that spat at him from good length.
Today, he got Virat Kohli, the first innings centurion and the bulwark of Indian batting. It was a blow that didn’t just push India to the ropes, it almost ended the bout. The referee has started the count. At 35/3, chasing 287, it’s just a matter of time, before the dreaded 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 .. KO gets uttered.
Ngidi had almost got Kohli in the first innings too; it was around the same time. It was virtually the same ball, the ball that comes in like a truck. Kohli has had a problem with that ball. Philander exploited the weakness at Newlands. At Centurion, the senior bowler had been constantly mentoring the young pacer. After the game, Ngidi acknowledged the tips from Philander, who is always around when the newcomer has the ball in his hand.
Speaking about the Parthiv wicket he had said, “I was talking to Vernon in terms of game-plans on how to get that wicket. Listening to someone with so much knowledge, and it panning out exactly the way he was telling me, it made me really happy and believe that I can perform at this level.”
For Kohli too he had a plan, and it is very likely that Philander had drawn it. At Cape Town, Philander, after several away-going balls, had Kohli with an in-coming ball, the long front foot stride landing the batsman in trouble. At Centurion, Ngidi would bowl the in-coming ball, Kohli would miss it and would get hit on the pads. A long DRS scrutiny would save him, a thin edge being the saviour.
Ngidi spoke about the stride. “In my first spell I hit the pad a few times, so I thought that was a vulnerable area for him. He kept shifting across and getting more into my bowling line, so I thought maybe shoot one into the stumps. I nearly got him. I thought I had him. I thought he had hit the ground. When I saw that edge, I kind of dropped a bit, but I knew I had to get back on the ball.”
Today at Centurion, Kohli was again shifting across and getting in the bowling line. The high of the first innings’ 153 would have made him forget his flaws and be less circumspect. Ngidi would stick to the same plan. The big seam movement would beat Kohli. A loud shout, a bit of discussion between Kohli and Pujara would be followed by the DRS.
Ngidi would wait but this time the snicko would show no spike. Kohli would walk away and Ngidi would give him a loud goodbye. After that, he would turn to the huddle and give his trademark toothy smile.
There is no way he wouldn’t have had goosepimples today.