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Ken Borland

Half-day at the office for the Proteas, but already shaping to be toil 0

Posted on October 13, 2023 by Ken

It was not much more than a half-day at the office for the Proteas as they returned to action in the third Test against Australia, but it was already shaping up to be a day of toil as the home side reached 147 for two when bad weather stopped play at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

Only 47 overs were able to be played before the umpires controversially took the players off, for the second time, at 5.50pm, having earlier gone off at at 2.17pm local time. On both occasions the rain did then arrive, but the reluctance of the umpires to keep playing on a grey, overcast day was unfuriating.

That was far from the most contentious bit of decision-making on the opening day though. Shortly before the play was stopped, Marnus Labuschagne edged left-armer Marco Jansen low to first slip, where Simon Harmer seemed to have scooped up a fine catch.

Neither Labuschagne nor the umpires were 100% sure though, with third umpire Richard Kettleborough being called into play, the soft signal being out. Having watched numerous replays, the Englishman felt the ball had touched the ground, but the conclusive replay, zoomed in from the front, was strangely absent.

Labuschagne survived on 70, but five minutes later, the crucial replay suddenly emerged and showed that Harmer did get his fingers under the ball. One wonders why the host broadcaster could not have provided the telling replay when the TV umpire needed it.

Labuschagne added just nine more runs to his score before the lionhearted Anrich Nortje managed to drag some life out of a featherbed pitch, a phenomenal delivery with pace, bounce and away-nip being edged behind. His luck certainly turned as the umpires took the players off the field straight after his dismissal.

Usman Khawaja was playing a classy opening batsman’s knock with 54 not out, showing plenty of fine judgement in his stroke-selection, but also effectively putting away anything loose as he collected six fours. Steve Smith had just come to the crease but had not faced a ball yet.

Khawaja and Labuschagne added 135 for the second wicket in impressively efficient fashion, taking charge after lunch as they added 70 runs in 15 overs. In the morning session, Khawaja and Labuschagne had been focused on getting in and ensuring the advantage of winning the toss and batting on a dry, easy-paced pitch that offered little movement, was not squandered.

Nortje had been the supplier of South Africa’s other wicket on the first day, David Warner (10) edging high to Jansen at first slip as he played a rather loose slash outside off-stump.

The Proteas pacemen gave little away with the new ball, but the task became ever harder for them. Spinner Harmer provided some anxious moments for the left-handed Khawaja and he and Keshav Maharaj could be the key bowlers for the rest of the innings.

Harmer has replaced Lungi Ngidi in the attack, while South Africa have brought in Heinrich Klaasen for Theunis de Bruyn, who returned home for the birth of his first child.

Facts are struggling Ngidi still took all 3 wickets to fall 0

Posted on January 27, 2022 by Ken

Lungi Ngidi returned to international action for the first time since July on Sunday, and the facts are that even though he struggled initially, he still ended up taking all three wickets to fall on an opening day of toil for the Proteas against India at Centurion.

India, led by Lokesh Rahul’s determined 122 not out, scored 272/3 on the opening day of the series. But from South Africa’s perspective, Ngidi’s return of 3/45 in 17 overs was a big positive considering the worries over his fitness leading into the series.

While the 25-year-old was adamant that he is physically fine, he admitted to initially struggling with his rhythm, before a change of ends helped him considerably. Ngidi took the new ball from the Hennops River End and looked rusty, as did most of the bowlers as openers Rahul and Mayank Agarwal (60) put on 117 for the first wicket.

Ngidi then removed both Agarwal and Cheteshwar Pujara (0) with successive deliveries midway through the second session, both falling to deliveries that snaked back into them.

“Physically I’m good, it’s not as if I’ve been sitting around vegetating, there’s been lots of training and game simulations,” Ngidi said on Sunday. “But I got more rhythm, I was more comfortable and my action felt better from the West Lane End.

“I asked at lunch if I could switch ends because at first I struggled to find my right length and areas. I just felt more comfortable from the other end.

“They were wobble-seam balls, you can’t be sure which way they will seam, but more often than not they come into the batsman. I was trying to create a bit of doubt, attack the stumps and pads more.

“They were leaving well and we expected more swing, so when the pitch is not doing as much as you expected, then you have to change plans,” Ngidi explained.

Ngidi also picked up the huge scalp of Virat Kohli, having him caught at first slip for 35, just when he was starting to show all his class. Again, the Proteas and their fans can raise a glass to Ngidi’s willingness to try something different. Kohli and Rahul were in command, having added 82 for the third wicket, when Ngidi surprised the Indian captain with a full and wide away-swinger.

“That ball gives you a chance, sometimes you have to take a gamble. In 2018 at the Wanderers I got him out with a similar delivery.

“He’s really good off his legs and through the covers, but I gave him something he maybe didn’t expect. It would have looked like a free ball to hit, but there was a bit of nibble.

“It was a roll of the dice and it went my way,” Ngidi beamed.

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