How Lungi Ngidi maximised a spicy Pune surface
All-star of the match
Lungi Ngidi has all the attributes that go into the making of a successful fast bowler. He is tall, hits the deck hard, consistently bowls in the 140s, generates good bounce, and can get the ball to move around sharply. Those qualities came to the fore when he made his international debut for South Africa, in a T20I against Sri Lanka at Centurion, and was named Man of the Match. Since then, Ngidi's graph has only moved upwards. A year after that performance, he was in whites, blasting India out on Test debut to deliver South Africa a series win. A week after that, he was sold to Chennai Super Kings for his base price of INR 50 lakh (approx. $73,500) at the 2018 IPL auction.
It was a while before Ngidi could break into this Super Kings XI, as replacement for an injured Deepak Chahar. In his first game, he returned 1 for 26 from four overs in a match that yielded 409 runs. Since then, he has been a quiet match-winner for Super Kings. Before their last league match, against Kings XI Punjab, Ngidi had five wickets in four matches and conceded at 7.14 runs an over.
On Sunday, Ngidi found a pitch that played perfectly to his strengths. There was swing, pace, carry and bounce, and Ngidi used it to harry Kings XI's batsmen. His dominance began from ball one, when Chris Gayle was beaten with sharp bounce in the corridor outside off. With his next ball, Ngidi had the big man out, banging one into his hips and getting him to glove it to the keeper. Aaron Finch and KL Rahul spent the next four balls getting routinely beaten and barely managing to keep out the bounce. First over: wicket maiden.
The only run he conceded in his next over was because of an overthrow. Each delivery was doing something: some climbed sharply into the batsmen, while others nipped away late to square them up. It induced an error in judgement from Rahul, who was bowled shouldering arms. Ngidi closed out his first spell with a six-run third over - his most expensive on the night. When he returned, Kings XI had managed to garner some momentum, thanks to Karun Nair and an 18-run 17th over. But Ngidi snuffed that out with a three-run over featuring a double strike. Not many players can claim to be sharper than MS Dhoni behind the stumps. But Ngidi challenged his captain to take a review after R Ashwin feathered one to the keeper. It proved successful. Two balls later, Andrew Tye chipped harmlessly to mid-off, giving Ngidi his fourth scalp.
The wow moment
Rahul has taken his ball-striking abilities to the next level this IPL. His shot-making has been stunning and put the best attacks in the tournament to shame. And so, prompting an error in judgement from a batsman in that kind of form isn't an easy feat. Off the fifth ball of his fourth over, Ngidi had got one to subtly leave Rahul off the good length area, as the ball ripped past the outside edge. It was the perfect set-up for what was to follow: another length ball that pitched outside off. Like the ball before, Rahul expected it to seam away and prepared to leave. Except this one cut back in and clattered right into the top of his off-stump. In a rare sight this season, Rahul was left looking like he had no idea what had hit him.
- Ngidi's 4 for 10 are his best T20 figures. He bettered the 4 for 14 he took for Titans against Warriors in the 2017-18 Ram Slam T20 Challenge. They are also the second-best figures this season, behind Ankit Rajpoot's 5 for 14 against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Moreover, the 10 runs he gave away in four overs made it the most economical spell of this IPL.
What they said
"A very good day out. Really didn't expect it to go that well, but I'll take it. Didn't expect this track. Usually they say the subcontinent is slow and low, but after seeing Chahar, I was grinning."
Akshay Gopalakrishnan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo