Nortje is really excited to be playing in Port Elizabeth
It was certainly then refreshing listening to Anrich Nortje in terms of cricket remaining accessible to all communities. The 26-year-old fast bowler hails from a modest family in Uitenhage - 26 kilometres from St George’s Park - where he attended Handhaaf Primary and Brandwag High School.
Neither of these institutions rank among the ivy league of schools in the Eastern Cape where Grey High School, Selbourne College (East London), St Andrews (Grahamstown) dominate the cricket landscape. In fact, Nortje is the first national cricket player produced by his alma mater.
But like every other Eastern Cape boy, Nortje’s dreams of playing for the Proteas on his home ground St George’s Park - which he looks set to this week when the third Test gets underway against England tomorrow - began while watching his heroes from the grass banks.
“I am really excited to be playing here in Port Elizabeth. I used to sit here on the grass embankments and watch the games,” Nortje said.
“It’s been a lot of hard work over the years and a lot of sacrifices a lot of Decembers in South Africa playing cricket rather than having holidays.
“It’s nice to finally get that opportunity and I’m really excited (to) just go out there and give it my best.”
There’s little doubt that Nortje will run out and give it his all this week. He has been a bundle of energy throughout the Test series against England so far. Proteas captain Faf du Plessis has also utilised Nortje in short bursts, often just letting him loose to attack the English with his missiles that are delivered in excess of 150km/* .
It seems like Nortje has taken over the “aggressor” role from Duanne Olivier, who was so successful last season before opting for a Kolpak contract with Yorkshire in the English county championship.
“At this stage any role I can do I’m happy with,” Nortje said. “Just to be playing is already a big honour for me. Whatever the team needs or wants whether it’s investment or whether it’s striking I’m happy to do that for now.
“Sometimes I do that role domestically as well so it’s nothing different for me. It’s about what the team needs.”
Nortje has already shown that he enjoys getting the big players out like Joe Root and Ben Stokes. However, Nortje’s impact was missed when illness ruled him out of action on the start of day four at Newlands. It was during this period that Stokes found his mojo and England’s tail wagged significantly.
“They really batted well in Cape Town. We were quite happy with our performance in Centurion. It’s not really red flags for us at this stage. We’ve been doing the same work the same intensity,” Nortje said.
“Not picking up the 20 wickets yes it might be a bit of a concern but when we had the opportunity we kept the run-rate down.
“When Stokes and them started to go, it was a bit of a different story.
“In general we did the right things for long periods. It’s just a question of getting the extra one or two wickets to get to the tail.”