Lungi Ngidi turned a promising debut into a memorable one as he put India on the rack with a devastating spell of fast bowling on the fourth evening of the second Test match at SuperSport Park on Tuesday.
Largely as a result of Ngidi’s onslaught India reached the close on 35/3 in pursuit of a target of 287 with their kingpin, Virat Kohli, among the three batsmen already back in the pavilion.
One finds it hard to recall when any 21-year-old made such an impact in his debut Test. This was only his 10th first-class match and, as Shaun Pollock pointed out, he is going to have to learn his skills on the job because he is not going to play a lot of franchise cricket going forward.
He bowled fast and straight, giving the batsmen no respite as they were forced to play all the time, and given the added advantage of uneven bounce he was quite lethal at times as Parthiv Patel found out to his cost when one delivery smacked into his ribs.
What has really stood out has been his ability throughout the match to lift his game whenever it has been needed. This has been particularly noticeable when he has had Kohli in his sights.
He finished the day with figures of 2/16 in 6 overs which in itself put him in unchartered waters as it was the longest spell Faf du Plessis had call on him to bowl.
The odds are now totally against India surviving the last day let alone winning the game. They still need 252 runs for victory and this would require a scoring rate of slightly more than 2.5 to the over which is proving very difficult on a deteriorating pitch.
The Proteas themselves only managed to score 57 in the two-and-a-quarter hour afternoon session which tells just how difficult it is to score runs.
The Proteas second innings was set up by the 141-run partnership for the third wicket between AB de Villiers (80 off 121 balls, 10 fours) and Dean Elgar (61 off 121 balls, 8 fours and a six).
Du Plessis and Vernon Philander then made sure that the target would be in excess of 250 with a partnership of 46 for the sixth wicket.
The Indian seamers all bowled well in preventing the Proteas from running away with the game, particularly during the De Villiers-Elgar partnership.