England in SA

CONFIRMED: Proteas' new Thunderbolt Kid

2020-01-03 18:48
Anrich Nortje
Anrich Nortje (Getty Images)

Cape Town - There was much to admire about the cohesive, collective aspect of South Africa's attack on day one of the second Test against England at Newlands on Friday.

Having lost an important toss on a pitch where "bat first" seemed such an elementary call - Joe Root duly confirmed as much, unable to contain a simultaneous, delighted grin - the Proteas were always going to need a combination of patience, guile and some honest back-bending for success.

Well, they got them all ... and quite genuinely from every member of their well-balanced, five-strong arsenal.

The tourists, who got several batsmen seemingly settled promisingly for a while in conditions their former captain Nasser Hussain aptly described as "book in for bed and breakfast", were instead curtailed to the mediocrity of 262 for nine at stumps.

Yes, the English have boasted notably stronger post-isolation batting line-ups on paper at the famous ground but they will also know, nevertheless, that they really ought to have supped at something rather closer to 280 or 290 for five, simply based on how weighted the pitch seemed to have been in their favour.

Typified by the fact that Dwaine Pretorius struck twice - cerebrally and decisively - in that little period ahead of a new ball where you anticipate that a fourth seamer may simply opt for containment, the Proteas, with Faf du Plessis pulling his tactical strings cleverly throughout, had considerably loftier ideas for themselves.

They have an inviting chance now, already 1-0 to the good in the four-Test series, to seize control of the contest with a more appropriately bulky first innings total of their own, assuming they snap up the last England wicket quickly enough on Saturday morning; things had finally got just a little ragged for them in the lengthening shadows when tenacious young Ollie Pope carved his way to an unbeaten half-century.

Despite the stirring way they hunted as a pack in the sunshine and moderate southeaster, South Africa's effectiveness in the field was probably best summarised by the performance of still relative Test novice Anrich Nortje.

The wiry strike bowler from Uitenhage, who had already shown pleasing long-term potential in his home-soil debut at SuperSport Park a few days back, perhaps more profoundly confirmed here that he is in it to stay for the country at this illustrious tier.

His consistently high pace levels shone through in just about every session of play, and as much as his hostility earned him the absolutely key scalps of Root and X-factor figure Ben Stokes when both were threateningly set, it probably also helped indirectly to tee up dismissals for those around him.

You could say that Nortje dismissed the highly proven Root twice in one over, as he saw him dropped (a miscommunication between wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and first slip Rassie van der Dussen) a minute or so before the better result - a rip-snorter of a bouncer that the all-at-sea batsman gloved to De Kock.

Before inducing a false stroke from Stokes for his exit, too, the bristling Nortje had made a prior statement by thumping a delivery onto the combative left-hander's bicep from an attempted pull.

"He seems to make things happen," was Mark Nicholas' measured but clearly approving verdict on the 26-year-old speedster, who was tellingly averaging almost 144 km/h in pace even as late as the 71st over with a significantly worn ball and boasted a personal best on the day of a touch under 152.

Mike Atherton, meanwhile - yes, he of some epic duels in days gone by with a previous SA thunderbolt in the form of Allan Donald - described Warriors-based Nortje as a "terrific addition to this team ... you get the impression he’d be happy to charge in all day".

With a bit of luck, and certainly if you are SA-inclined, the paceman will spend almost all of Saturday and a fair portion of the next day with his feet up to steel himself for a later bombardment in this Test match ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    england  |  proteas  |  anrich nortje  |  cricket


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