Lungi Ngidi is fit and ready to bolster the South Africa pace attack as they continue their string of must-win matches. Ngidi injured his hamstring and couldn't bowl his quota in the match against Bangladesh, who stacked up 330 at The Oval to beat them and derail South Africa's World Cup campaign. Two days before the crucial match against New Zealand in Birmingham, Ngidi cleared a fitness test. South Africa have three points from five matches, and have New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia left to play.
Ngidi confirmed he had no reason to worry about his hamstring now. "It's 100%," he said. "That's how the fitness test goes. If you are not bowling at 100% then you are obviously not ready to play. Today was as hard as I could go, at match-intensity."
Ngidi spoke about the feelings of watching Bangladesh score all those runs even as he was off the field with his injury. "On that day, we went a lot shorter [with our length] than we should have," Ngidi said. "That happens on the day. Credit to them, they took advantage of that and they were able to post a decent total and defend it. With me going off, obviously, I didn't bowl my full quota of overs and someone had to fill that in, so that didn't work out in our favour.
"Not that I wanted to get injured, but I felt like I let the team down a bit. We probably should have still tried as best as we could to restrict them to under 300 but it happens, it's cricket. On the day they were better than us and they won the game."
That can lead to mental strain on a cricketer but Ngidi said he has had the support staff to help him out with it. "It's been tough," he said of sitting out. "Injuries are never nice but with the support staff I've had around me, it's been pretty decent. Other than being off the field, I've been all right. Just frustrated by not being able to play a few games."
Ngidi said South Africa needed to get around to the basics of testing batsmen's techniques. "The one thing I have always been told by Ottis [Gibson, the coach] is holding my length and with the first game, it wasn't ideal for me up front," Ngidi said. "I didn't do that. I didn't execute the skill I am in the team to do. That would pretty much be it now, just making sure I am putting batsmen under pressure within the Powerplay, testing their techniques."
That's where opportunity lies for South Africa. Their opponents New Zealand are yet to be defeated in the tournament, but South Africa know that when Bangladesh put their middle and lower middle order under pressure, they did show signs of vulnerability. "I don't think their middle- and lower-order batsmen have been tested enough," Ngidi said. "Most of the guys who have scored the runs are at the top of the order. Maybe one or two [wickets] up front, get those guys, get their middle order in as early as possible, and you could be looking at a different situation when it comes to their batting."