Ngidi urges ‘Protea fire’, dismisses Buttler, Stokes England absence

Ngidi injured South Africa PA

Lungi Ngidi believes the onus is on the one-day international side to restore some pride to South African cricket after a disappointing Test series defeat to England.

A hamstring injury ruled paceman Ngidi out of the entirety of the recently-completed series, where England battled back from losing the opening Test in Centurion to win in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg for a 3-1 triumph.

But after coming through a strength and conditioning camp, where he estimated he had lost around five kilograms in weight, Ngidi insists he is not dwelling on what has gone and is fully focused on the ODI series.

Ahead of the opener at Newlands against Eoin Morgan’s side on Tuesday, Ngidi said: “It’s always frustrating to be watching, especially if we’re not doing as well as we wanted to be doing.

“From the side there’s a bit of frustration but the Test series is gone now. We’ve got to focus on the one-dayers.

“To win this series would be a massive thing for us. Having not done as well as we wanted to in the Test series, it’s a chance for us to redeem ourselves and still show that Protea fire that we have.”

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While Ngidi has played only five Tests, he can count Australia opener David Warner and India captain Virat Kohli among his victims so his unavailability against England was a blow for the Proteas.

In South Africa’s last ODI against England, Ngidi claimed the key wickets of Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in the opening match of the 2019 World Cup.

Stokes and Buttler have been fundamental in England’s 50-over resurgence from also-rans to world champions but the duo have been rested with a view to returning for the Twenty20 series which follows the three ODIs.

Ngidi, though, reckons the pair’s absence is not a boon for South Africa’s bowling attack, adding: “It doesn’t matter who’s playing for them.

“Our aim is to win the series but even if they were here the same thing would be to win the series. Whatever line-up they come up with, we’re just going to have to do as best as we can on the day.”

This series marks a changing of the guard for South Africa, with a number of established players either retiring or rested, and only 23-year-old Ngidi and five others have been retained from the side that suffered a dismal group stage exit at the World Cup.

South Africa could name up to five debutants in the series opener while Ngidi, who has taken 41 wickets in 22 ODIs at an average of 23.09, will be relied upon to be the pace spearhead.

Asked if there is anyone in England’s ranks who he is targeting, he replied: “I’d like all of them! That’s my main thing right now, to take as many wickets as possible.”