Lungi Ngidi
Lungi Ngidi

If you have not already noticed, Lungi Ngidi is huge. And as he sat talking to the media after SA’s six-wicket win over Australia at St George’s Park on Monday it was obvious he is, physically at least, more than big enough to step into Kagiso Rabada’s boots.

Mentally too, Rabada could learn from his younger, less experienced colleague.

"You can be aggressive within your actions, with what you say, or in general the areas you bowl," Ngidi said.

"Putting a batsman under pressure, having a presence, letting him know that you’re there. Those are the things I lean towards as a cricketer.

"I don’t really have to say much. I feel just a look may be good enough.

"Those are the kinds of things I say are aggression."

Would that Ngidi’s way of doing things takes root between Rabada’s ears.

Rabada took 11/150 at St George’s Park to spur SA to their series-levelling victory, and he regained the No1 bowling ranking on Tuesday.

At 22 he shares the record for the youngest bowler to have claimed four 10-wicket hauls in Test cricket with Waqar Younis.

But Rabada has also become the first player to be banned for two games since the demerit system became operational in September 2016.

He has racked up nine demerit points in five visits to the match referee’s office in the past 13 months. No player has been in trouble more.

Australia captain Steve Smith and coach Darren Lehmann have said they noticed Rabada was on five points before the Port Elizabeth match and wondered whether they could nudge him towards the eight that would result in a suspension.

Mission accomplished, and more — Rabada was docked four points for two offences.

He is considering appealing against the charge that saw him slapped with three of those points for his shoulder contact with Smith in Friday’s match.

But, as things stand, Rabada is out of the Newlands Test on March 22 and the series finale at the Wanderers eight days later.

What with Rabada hogging the spotlight at St George’s Park, there was not a lot left for the rest to do. But Ngidi’s five wickets in the match made him SA’s next most successful bowler.

And with Dale Steyn unlikely to play for the Titans against the Cobras in Paarl on Thursday — and thus be unable to prove his fitness following a heel injury in January — SA have a vacancy for someone to fill the Rabada-sized hole in their attack.

Morné Morkel, who was left out in Port Elizabeth, will surely return, and with him will come the spiking bounce and relentless accuracy that have made him the least pleasant bowler batsmen have to face.

But Ngidi, who has easily earned another crack in Cape Town, is a more like-for-like replacement for what Rabada brings: thundering pace, a touch of swing and much presence.

He is not, after only three Tests, the superstar Rabada has become in 28 games. But he is also not the rock star Rabada has become, and in good ways.

"He’s a great bowler to get information from and to learn from," Ngidi said of Rabada.

"But I am a different person. I’m a lot more reserved as a person, so I can never say I want to want to be KG Rabada.

"I’ve got my own abilities, my own skills and traits," he said. Another aspect of the difference between Rabada and Ngidi can be gleaned from the video of David Warner screaming at Quinton de Kock on a staircase during the first Test at Kingsmead. Rabada emerges from the dressing room with chest puffed and eyes blazing, clearly ready for a fight.

Ngidi stands calmly on the stairs as the scene passes him.

"When I came out of the changeroom I heard a lot of swearing and shouting, and I didn’t know where it was coming from," Ngidi said.

"I was just standing there and all the players were coming up, and I didn’t know what was going on until I actually saw Warner shouting and screaming…. Eventually, after everyone was upstairs, then I realised what was going on.

"I was the passive one in that situation," Ngidi said.

Keep it that way, big fella, and you will be just fine.

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