Lungi, records are meant to be broken

Jaco van der Merwe.

Jaco van der Merwe.

Making a spectacular Test debut with the ball for the Proteas is actually a bit of a poisoned chalice.

Well, actually any great debut for that matter, because the same applies to most batsmen who announced themselves with a century in their first outing. Of South Africa’s six centurions on debut, only one boasts a career average of more than 35 – a very healthy 46.3 in fact – and he is also the only one to accumulate more than 3 000 Test runs during his career.

I’m talking about the current captain Faf du Plessis, who famously stood between Australia and a win in Adelaide in 2012 by scoring an unbeaten 110 which was a massive contributing factor in the tourists’ eventual series triumph.

Du Plessis hasn’t done enough yet to go down as a great, but statistically stands out head and shoulders above the other debut centurions Andrew Hudson, Jacques Rudolph, Alviro Petersen, Stiaan van Zyl and Stephen Cook. These are not bad players at all and didn’t all enjoy the rub of the green during their stay on the national side, but the fact that they couldn’t maintain the initial highs for the best part of their careers placed a serious dampener on their records.

On the other hand someone like Proteas opener Dean Elgar started his Test career in the worst possible way by recording a pair against Australia in Perth in 2012.

But the gritty left-hander has managed to find his niche in the Test arena and can today boast a more than decent average of 41.3 as he is zeroing on 3 000 runs.

If you take the bowlers, none of the top five performers in an innings on debut finished their careers with more than 80 wickets.

That doesn’t mean that a guy like Kyle Abbott didn’t enjoy a very successful Test career – albeit short – and that he can’t be extremely proud of taking 39 wickets at an excellent average of 22.2, but it rather just strengthens the strange phenomenon of players writing themselves into the record books during their debuts but not continuing with the trend throughout their careers.

Take Indian leggie Narendra Hirwani for example. As a 19-yearold, he took insane match figures of 16/136 against the mighty West Indies in Chennai. He only went on to take another 50 wickets in all of 16 Tests.

Aussie Bob Massie, who held the record for the best match figures on debut before Hirwani, only played five more Tests after destroying England with 16/137 at Lord’s in 1972.

The 15 further wickets he claimed in a short-lived Test career was less than he took on his debut.

At the other end of the stick is Shane Warne, who finished his career with a mammoth 708 wickets, but recorded well-documented figures of 1/150 on debut against India in Sydney in 1992.

Lungi Ngidi is the talk of the town after bowling himself into the record books last week and has a golden opportunity to actually go on – like Du Plessis did – and show that not all shooting stars run out of gas.

At 21 he’s got age on his side, he won’t be dropped easily and somehow I reckon he won’t consider the Kolpak route like Abbott. So barring injuries, this lad can really rip the record books apart like he did the Indian batsmen at Centurion.




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