Anrich Nortje has just watched his countrymate, Kagiso Rabada go for 23 runs in an over that included three towering sixes from Eoin Morgan. Kolkata Knight Riders need 31 to win from 12 balls. Crazier things have happened in this IPL season and at Sharjah of all grounds, with Morgan in zen mode and clubbing sixes for fun against the best death bowler in the tournament, Nortje had an uphill task.
His first ball to Morgan is a low full toss right at the stumps at 144kmph. The England captain couldn’t get underneath the ball and it’s mistimed down to long-off for a single. Nortje goes shorter to Rahul Tripathi and just two comes off the first two balls.
When Morgan is back on strike, Nortje is bouncing him with a leg cutter above his right shoulder and the resultant pull is caught in the deep. Delhi Capitals have broken through with the massive wicket of Morgan and contrary to what was expected – Rabada cleaning up the mess in the death – it’s Nortje who does it for DC. He concedes just five runs in the over and gets Delhi over the line.
This IPL, no bowler has induced more false shots than Anrich Nortje, who has done so a whopping 20 times in the 99 balls he has bowled. Navdeep Saini also has 20 to his name, but he has bowled more balls than Nortje. In the game against Kolkata Knight Riders, Nortje induces six false shots on a surface where it’s known that the ball comes on nicely and travels the distance.
Coming into the season as a replacement player, Anrich Nortje has quickly become a key part of Delhi’s bowling attack and much of that could be down to how he enjoys bowling in any role he’s given.
“I mostly take the new ball and then came back in the middle overs to put some pace on the ball. I have really enjoyed the challenge of bowling in the death against guys looking to hit you out of the ground. Trying to land your yorkers, being as accurate as possible and throwing in variations. I wouldn’t say there’s one area where I want to be in. But I have enjoyed the death overs,” Nortje says in an exclusive chat with CricXtasy right before the first game.
Of bowlers to bowl at least 25 balls in the death this season, Nortje’s economy rate of 8.75 is the third best behind Andre Russell and Deepak Chahar. However, that’s not the only phase Nortje has shone in. In the powerplay with the new ball, Nortje has conceded runs at 6.25 runs per over while picking up two wickets. Of bowlers to bowl as many balls as him in the first six overs, only two have a better economy.
The standout stats in two completely different phases show why Nortje has been outstanding this IPL for Delhi Capitals. It’s evident from the Instagram training videos that Delhi Capitals put out that Nortje is here to do what he does with good intensity. On day one of training with the team, he had Prithvi Shaw’s bat broken in half with a peach. The intensity and focus on and off the field has been top-notch.
“There are quite a lot of similarities with the South African setup here in Delhi Capitals. I don’t find too much a difference, except that everyone’s new to me except KG. It’s nice to experience everything, the conditions, the pitch, the net sessions where every batsmen are going after every ball. I think the intensity in the nets is terrific. It’s quite a young group and it’s nice sort of having everyone in the same age group with sinilar interests, it’s been easier getting along,” Anrich Nortje says.
It has helped him that Rabada is in the same team. The two have formed a destructive pair in the top-tail phases for Delhi and they are reaping rich rewards. Two overseas pacers in a group of four is a tested success formula by Mumbai Indians. This year, Delhi have replicated it with improved success rates and the Proteas fast bowling duo has been at the forefront of their renaissance.
Health and steaming in ball after ball is a major concern in the UAE heat, though, but Anrich Nortje, known to struggle with his fitness, has built up to the tournament well during the lockdown and by focusing on bowling fitness in UAE.
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“It was interesting that at the start of the training. During the lockdown I did all the strength work for 4-5 months. Here, I have tried to take a different approach, just for the start, and not focus too much on strength, rather getting my body used to the workload again. I did bowl in South Africa but the intensity here is different. So just trying to get the bowling fitness on has been the focus.”
So far, it has gone well for Nortje and Delhi Capitals. While a lot of teams have struggled to adapt to UAE and Sharjah in particular, Delhi has hit the ground running, and the role played by this gun South African pacer, in tandem with his senior, cannot be underestimated. It’s a template that quite a few teams might try and take a leaf out of.