Ngidi shines as Proteas pip England in T20 opener

Ngidi shines as Proteas pip England in T20 opener
Lungi Ngidi of the Proteas jumps for joy after the Proteas win during the International T20 Series 2019/20 between the Proteas and England up at Buffalo Park in East London on 11 February 2020 © Deryck Foster/BackpagePix

South Africa and England’s seamers put on a masterclass in death bowling in the enthralling opener of their three-match T20 series.

On a windy evening in Buffalo Park, East London, South Africa edged out England by a single run to kick off their three-match T20 series with a victory. It was only the third T20 international to be played at the stadium.

South Africa were meeting England in a bilateral T20 series for the first time in nearly three years. They had last met in a three-match series in England, which the hosts won 2-1.

At Buffalo Park, the English won the toss, with their captain Eoin Morgan opting to field first.

So started a riveting game of cricket that ebbed and flowed throughout. At the end of it all, it came down to a masterclass in death bowling.

Mark Wood and Chris Jordan started off the exhibition of holding your nerve when it matters most, as they combined to stifle South Africa, only giving away eight runs in the last two overs of the home team’s batting spell.

That display of disciplined bowling by the English pace duo, along with a mid-innings collapse from the Proteas that saw the visitors pick up seven wickets at the expense of just 72 runs, restricted the home team to 177 for eight in their 20 overs.

Lungi Ngidi, however, would top the efforts of Wood and Jordan, putting in a world-class performance in his last two overs.

The seamer finished with figures of three for 30, but his figures of two for 10 in those final two overs would have pleased him and his teammates the most.

That return contributed to the home side picking up six wickets for a paltry 34 runs at the end of England’s spell. The visitors finished with a score of 176 for nine, one run short of the target set by the Proteas.

“Outstanding game of cricket. Experiences like this, particularly with the (T20) World Cup around the corner, are so valuable to the team. I think we learn more – both sides – when we’re put under a bit of pressure. And today was a fine example of that,” commented England skipper Morgan in the aftermath of his team’s loss.

England had opened the bowling with the surprise of spin, courtesy of Moeen Ali. He shared the ball with Tom Curran and the pair kept things pretty tight to frustrate the opening Proteas pair of captain Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma.

Curran bowled two dot balls with the first two balls of his first over, as good as a maiden in the shortest format of the game. However, the next three balls in that oversaw De Kock get the show on the road for the Proteas; smacking Curran for two fours and a six.  And just like that, the pressure was back on England.

The opening pair didn’t look back from then onwards, building a useful 48-run partnership.

Then Ali got man on mission De Kock out for 31 off 15 balls. The Proteas skipper skied the ball, with Joe Denley getting the catch.

After his captain’s departure, Bavuma got a new partner in crime in the form of Rassie van der Dussen. The pair batted beautifully, with some impressive running between the wickets to complement the boundaries.

They registered a 63-run partnership before Van der Dussen tried to clear the boundary on the leg side, but the breeze held the ball up and he was caught off the bowling of Ben Stokes.

His partner in devastation, Bavuma, followed him in the next over, for a well-played 43, the diminutive batsman caught at short fine leg off the bowling of Adil Rashid. Thereafter, wickets tumbled at regular intervals, culminating in those two magnificent overs by Wood and Jordan.

It seemed England would cruise to victory as Jason Roy showed why he is one of the best batsmen in the English setup. The opener partnered with Jos Buttler (15) and Jonny Bairstow (23) to lay a solid foundation for his side to chase down South Africa’s total.

De Kock brought Beuran Hendricks into the attack. And the left-armer removed the dangerous Roy before he could run further riot. He departed for 70, his highest score in South Africa.

He had laid a solid foundation though, as he departed with the visitors on 132 for three, needing just 46 runs from 34 balls for victory.

However, they imploded.

Despite captain Morgan being resolute and recording a half-century, he had no one ably supporting him as wickets tumbled all around him. When he fell to the bowling of Hendricks in the 19th over, the Proteas were down to the tail of England’s batting line-up.

That’s when it became the Ngidi show, with the paceman putting on a man-of-the-match performance.

South African captain De Kock said they hoped to carry the momentum they’d built going into the second match in Durban.

“We are going to enjoy tonight. Then obviously from tomorrow we’ll plan for the second game. It’s really important that we stay ruthless during this whole series and make sure we keep doing the right things. And hopefully we get a series win in the next game,” said the Proteas skipper in his post-match interview.

A victory on Friday 14 February would put the Proteas in an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series. DM


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