London, May 31: South Africa were satisfied with their efforts in restricting England to what Lungi Ngidi thought was a "below-par," total, despite it being in excess of 300 in the opening match of the ICC World Cup 2019 at the Oval on Thursday (May 30).
While South Africa ended up falling to a 104-run defeat, the bowlers did a good job restricting England's powerful batting line-up. "We believed we could have kept them to under 300. Even when they got to 311, I thought they were below-par," Ngidi said.
It took some time for Ngidi to realise how to put the brakes on England. His opening spell was expensive and his four overs cost 27 runs. "I was very disappointed with my bowling performance upfront. I might have been overthinking it. All the talk was how they post totals of 350 so maybe that was at the back of my mind," he said.
During that spell, Ngidi got a feel for the conditions and realised that the slower ball could be the most effective way of slowing England down.
He said: "There were a few opportunities in the Powerplay, where they nicked it through the slips and I started to think, 'These people are humans, just like me'. I kicked into my rhythm from there."
Ngidi decided to "listen to what the wicket was telling me," and adjust his pace to be more effective. "Slower balls were working so I stuck to that. Even though there were trying to come after me, they couldn't seem to get it away."
So that's what he stuck to. His remaining six overs went for 39 runs, and he picked up three wickets later in the innings. "I was happy to take three sticks but would have preferred two up front," he said.
But, while bowling, South Africa also realised the target would be more difficult to chase than it may have looked and when they lost two early wickets and Hashim Amla to a head injury early on, they were unable to sustain the momentum they needed to chase the total down.
"We realised it was not an easy wicket to bat on, having bowled all those slower balls at the back end," Ngidi said.
"And they kept us on the back foot. They kept throwing punches at us. Hashim retired early which was unfortunate for us. When he came back on, batting with the all-rounders and the tail, he was probably less effective than he would have been up front."
South Africa lost by a margin of 104 runs but know there is still a long way to go in the tournament and they need to move on quickly.
"Every game is important," Ngidi said. "Everyone had hyped up their first game to the point where you started feeling as if it was the final already but we didn't let that get to us. We know what we need to do in order to get to the semi-finals."