Who will fill the 1.93-metre hole Ngidi has left in SA's attack?

South African bowler Lungi Ngidi, centre, will miss the Proteas' home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka due to injury
South African bowler Lungi Ngidi, centre, will miss the Proteas' home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka due to injury
Image: file

It’s difficult for South African supporters to know what to make of the knee injury that has taken Lungi Ngidi out of the mix for at least three months.

Should they worry that a key member of the attack might lose his edge leading into the World Cup?

Should they be angry that this calamity befell Ngidi in a damn fool irrelevant T20 tacked onto the end of the limited series in Australia‚ and is the only reason the cursed match will be remembered?

Both. But there’s no point dwelling in the dark past‚ especially as he will need to be replaced for South Africa’s home series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka this summer.

In the not quite two years since Ngidi made his international debut in — would you believe it — a T20 against Sri Lanka in Centurion‚ he has shown intelligence to match his physicality.

Fifteen wickets is decent for four Tests‚ and he has proved himself well capable of switching gears to slip into white-ball mode.

All good. Except that Ngidi’s sudden removal from the equation leaves a 1.93-metre hole in South Africa’s bowling plan.

He is their leading wicket-taker in one-day internationals this year: three more than Kagiso Rabada for three fewer runs in 16.2 fewer overs.

How to fill that gap?

Maybe by installing a 1.96-metre fast bowler‚ albeit someone who‚ unlike Ngidi‚ doesn’t look like something straight out of Wakanda as he bounds towards the bowling crease.

Chris Morris is that fast bowler‚ and the fact that injury and questions over his consistency have limited him to five of the 17 ODIs South Africa have played in 2018 are convincing reasons to have a good long look at him this season.

And he can bat. But that promises to complicate things because it means Morris is already in the running for the allrounder’s berth.

[His] expected date of return to play is the second week of January.

So is Wiaan Mulder‚ another possible understudy for Ngidi. Except that an ankle injury means he was last seen on the field in the first ODI against Zimbabwe in Kimberley on September 30.

But the update on him‚ as given by South Africa’s team management on Tuesday‚ is promising: “He is progressing well with his rehab and is expected to start batting. [His] expected date of return to play is the second week of January.”

Duanne Olivier is an option‚ even though he has only bowled a red ball for South Africa. But he will have to curb a tendency to keep thundering in while apparently giving little thought to tailoring his bowling to the conditions and the match situation.

Still‚ and even though the Mzansi Super League (MSL) is far from the best barometer for players with World Cup potential‚ the six wickets Olivier has taken in three games — the scalps of Quinton de Kock‚ Andile Phehlukwayo and Christiaan Jonker among them — won’t hurt his chances.

Then there’s Corbin Bosch‚ who has replaced Ngidi in the MSL. Bosch has played only four list A matches‚ but it’s already apparent that the kid can bowl: six wickets at less than 30 and fewer than five runs an over.

Just like Tertius‚ then. Unlike his father‚ he can also bat. And he’s tall.

- TimesLIVE

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