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Ngidi leading the young brigade

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“The main focus has been to try and perform as best as I can for the team.”

ALL Mark Boucher wanted from Lungi Ngidi was to knock over Australia’s top three batsmen.

David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith, all World Cup winners, all ace players. Ngidi got two of them on Wednesday (Warner and Smith), just like he did in Paarl (Warner and Finch).

But in Bloemfontein he went big, finishing with figures of 6/58, the ninth best ODI figures all time by a South African and the second best by a Proteas bowler against Australia.

Ngidi has been in very good form since returning from hamstring strain that meant he missed the Test matches against England.

He had a couple of poor matches against the English – the Pink ODI being one, and the third T20 against them being another – but given he had so much time away and the periods in the innings when he bowls, there’s been far more good than bad about the 23-year-old’s performances.

It was his final over that won the T20 International against the English in East London, his fine ‘death’ bowling was crucial to the triumph in the second T20 International against Australia in Port Elizabeth, and in the first two games of this ODI series he has taken wickets in the PowerPlay that have slowed the Australians’ momentum.

“Having had a few injuries, the comeback is what is vital,” he said yesterday. “The main focus has been to try and perform as best as I can for the team.”

That he did in Bloemfontein, hitting the deck hard with the new ball and returning at the death where he varied his pace smartly and delivered some accurate yorkers.

Australia were restricted to 49/6 in the last 10 overs of their innings, failing to take advantage of the flying start given to them by Warner.

Ngidi has stepped to the fore even in the presence of Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. He is a key part of the young brigade that Boucher and the team’s management are putting their faith into revitalise the Proteas.

“It’s very nice to have a lot of young players in the team. A lot of the big names have moved on, there are a lot of guys that have stepped up now, and it’s beautiful for South African cricket.”

Another member of that youthful brigade, Janneman Malan, made a superbly calculated century as South Africa successfully chased 272 to win the series at Mangaung Oval.

“I think it’s most young cricketers’ dream to win a game for their country and also the series,” Malan said after his match-winning 129.

His innings, coupled with Heinrich Klaasen’s hundred in the first match, and the contributions of David Miller in both games and Kyle Verreynne in Paarl has certainly helped to dispel the notion that this Proteas team is a one man operation, overly dependent on Quinton de Kock.

“As a youngster in the team, it was motivating, with him going out early (in the second ODI) to show, we are not a one man team. The other batsmen were driven by that,” said Malan.

Neither Ngidi nor Malan expect there to be any let up from the South Africans as they chase a series sweep in Potchefstroom on Saturday.

“We are not the finished product yet, there is a lot for us to work towards, so this (third ODI), is by no means a ‘dead rubber’,” said Ngidi.

Should South Africa sweep the series it would be the Proteas’ 11th ODI victory over the Australians in the last 12 matches between the two sides.

“It would mean a lot for the confidence of the players and the coaches,” said Ngidi. “It would put us in a good position going forward as we move to a tough tour in India.”