Lungi Ngidi’s return will be closely watched when the Titans face the Knights in the Momentum One-Day Cup at SuperSport Park today (10am).
It will be the first time Ngidi has played since injuring his knee in a T20 International against Australia on November 17 last year. The national selectors did not include the 22-year-old in the Test squad for the two-match series against Sri Lanka.
“We are not going to rush Lungi Ngidi back into international action until he has had the time to gain full match fitness,” said the panel’s convener Linda Zondi.
Ngidi, who made his Test debut against India at SuperSport Park last season, quickly established himself as a key member of the Proteas One-Day team, and he is central to the national side’s strategy at the World Cup later this year.
Although Ngidi said last week that he felt ready to play in the T20 series against Pakistan, the selectors’ caution is understandable. Ngidi has dealt with some severe injuries in his short career including a stress fracture in his back that kept him off the park for six months in 2017, just after he’d made his debut at international level in a T20 series against Sri Lanka.
Although the knee injury wasn’t the result of being overworked (rather he was diving for a ball on the boundary), with the World Cup on the horizon, the decision to get him back to being as strong and as fit as possible is a prudent one. Ngidi will, should he get through the Titans’ first three games, come into consideration for the five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka starting at the Wanderers on March 3.
While his goal will be to show the selectors he is fit, Ngidi is not the only one seeking to make an impression on Zondi and his panel in the domestic One-Day competition. His Titans team-mate Chris Morris has to make a strong case for inclusion in that squad for Sri Lanka too. His presence in the T20 series against Pakistan showed he hadn’t fallen completely out of favour, but to get to the World Cup he must feel he has to crack the 50-over squad for that Sri Lanka series.
Morris last played an ODI against India more than a year ago, and needs to produce some consistent performances over the coming weeks to catch the eye. The 31-year-old – who hits the ball long and bowls at speeds around the 140km/* – has fallen down the pecking order of the country’s all-rounders in the last 12 months, with Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wiaan Mulder all being given game time.
The World Cup has certainly raised the stakes in this season’s Momentum Cup and the presence of so many contenders for spots in that squad for that tournament will make for an intriguing first few weeks in the domestic competition.
In addition, Morris, Ngidi and the Titans need to get back to winning ways after a disappointing defence of their Four-Day Franchise crown. A win today will put some smiles on faces in Centurion, in a season which has been unusually disappointing for a franchise that has known mainly success in the last decade.