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Ngidi leads by example on and off the pitch

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Lungi Ngidi took a knee before play started, and would later sink to both knees in celebration having taken a ‘five-for’ that helped put the Proteas in control of the first Test against the West Indies.

Lungi Ngidi took his second five-wicket haul of his career on the opening day of the first Test against the West Indies. Picture: Randy Brooks, AFP

West Indies 97 all out

South Africa 128/4

JOHANNESBURG – Lungi Ngidi took a knee before play started, and would later sink to both knees in celebration having taken a ‘five-for’ that helped put the Proteas in control of the first Test against the West Indies in St Lucia on Thursday.

It was the big fast bowler’s call last year that South African cricket have a discussion about how to support the Black Lives Matter movement, that stirred up a hornet’s nest about racism in South African cricket.

The Proteas have struggled with their messaging around the issue, and while the West Indies were clear and united in all taking a knee before the start of the first Test, Ngidi was one of just six of South Africa’s starting team to join the home team in taking a knee.

He shared the new ball with Kagiso Rabada, after West Indies captain Kraigg Brathwaite chose to bat upon winning the toss, a decision made more based on history – the side batting first has won three times at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground – than what the conditions suggested or what would have made South Africa uncomfortable.

The pitch offered plenty of assistance for the fast bowlers, with good carry and seam movement on offer. South Africa’s new captain, Dean Elgar was happy not to be batting, giving his side, which included two debutants, more time to assess conditions.

In the meanwhile the South African bowlers, using a Duke ball manufactured in England that has a more pronounced seam and stays harder for longer, made life extremely uncomfortable for the home team.

Anrich Nortjé built on the pressure created by the new ball pair, to remove both openers, knocking back their off stumps. By lunch the West Indies were 48/4, Nortje adding Kyle Mayers to his haul, while Rabada picked up Nkrumah Bonner, with a lovely delivery that moved away from the right hander off the pitch.

That proved to be Bonner’s last action in the Test, after he was diagnosed with concussion later, the result of being struck flush on the helmet first ball by Nortjé.

The West Indies never recovered and were dismissed in the 41st over for their lowest total against South Africa. Ngidi bowled magnificently after lunch, maintaining a relentless line outside off stump, that offered four catches to the slips cordon, while Aiden Markram took another running catch from second slip to deep point after a top edged drive by Rahkeem Cornwall.

It was Ngidi’s second Test ‘five-for’ – his first having come on debut against India three years ago. It was a comprehensive performance from the three South African fast bowlers, who never let up against a vulnerable batting line-up.

Nortjé finished with 4/35 and while Rabada picked up just one wicket, it was arguably his best performance for South Africa in the last six months.

Elgar was dismissed in the first over by Kemar Roach flashing at a wide delivery. That meant Keegan Petersen, making his debut along with Kyle Verreynne – a late call up after Temba Bavuma failed to recover from a left hip injury – was in early.

He coped well initially, but succumbed to a very good delivery by the West Indies’ impressive debutant, teenager Jayden Seales, and was caught at second slip for 19.

Markram put his usual flowing stroke play on the back burner, showing grit to formulate a vital partnership of 79 for the third wicket with Rassie van der Dussen.

He was a victim of another very good delivery from Seales, which left him off the pitch, and bounced slightly more than the batsman anticipated off a good length with edge going through to ‘keeper Da Silva.

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Markram’s 60, was a continuation of the good form he had last season, even if it lacked his usual fluency, and contained seven fours.

Verreynne made six and flashed at a wide delivery five minutes before the close of play, giving Seales his third wicket.

Van der Dussen on 34 and Quinton de Kock on 4 will resume on Friday.

@shockerhess