Nandre Burger dishing up tasty stuff for Proteas

Nandré Burger has battled with injuries before, but bowled with real venom on his Proteas Test debut against India

Nandré Burger has battled with injuries before, but bowled with real venom on his Proteas Test debut against India. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Dec 30, 2023


Something suddenly clicks with fast bowlers. Occasionally it can happen at 22 if someone bowls like the wind – sometimes it takes a little longer to become an overnight sensation.

For instance, Nandré Burger, who ran through the much-vaunted Indian batting line-up in his debut Proteas Test at Centurion this week, is 28, while Kagiso Rabada is the same age, but already has 500 international wickets.

Burger has, though, featured in the Proteas selection discussion for a few years. He certainly was fast enough, and boasted the added bonus of being a southpaw.

But it was that crucial quality of being fit enough that has eluded him previously. The Monument High School product struggled with a serious stress fracture a couple of years ago, before a heel fracture curtailed his progress last season.

It took an extensive off-season down at Western Province for him to build up the strength, and more importantly the confidence to trust his body again, that has seen him terrorise domestic batting line-ups before being unleashed against the Indians in all three formats within the space of just over a week.

The results have been phenomenal, with Burger claiming debut Test-match figures of 7/83, which included a devastating spell of 4/30 in the second innings on day three to hasten India’s demise and rush South Africa to an emphatic innings-and-32-run victory on a manic Thursday.

It was a particularly special moment for the left-arm fast bowler, especially due to the struggles he had faced to get to this moment, which includes almost being lost to other sports such as tennis and squash as a youngster.

“I went to Monument High School. It’s obviously a massive rugby school in South Africa. I just spoke to Enoch (Nkwe, Cricket SA director of cricket) five minutes ago, and he was like ‘Do you remember when you wanted to stop playing cricket when you were 17 years old’, and I was like ‘Ja…’, and he said ‘I’m glad you didn’t’.

“Tennis was a big thing for me. I am pretty glad, though, (that) I chose cricket at the end of the day.

“Equally, when I was younger, I don’t think my body was ready to bowl fast, and hopefully now it is. It was tough to miss games and watch everyone else play, but I think it made me appreciate my teammates a lot more. It’s great to be playing again.”

Although quite gentle and likeable off the field, Burger – like most genuine fast bowlers – suffers from white-line fever, and is particularly passionate once he gets the red Kookaburra ball in his hand.

He is not averse to digging the ball in short, which a few of India’s batters discovered to their peril this past week.

When asked what it’s like to possess the armoury to physically harm an opposing batter, his response would not have eased any of their concerns heading into the second Test at Newlands next week.

“I don’t think I want to do that (kill a batter), but it is nice to be able to put some fear into someone. I want to be the person who ruins their day,” Burger said.

Marco Jansen took the new ball with Rabada in the first innings, but had it passed on to Burger in the second innings.

The debutant certainly enjoyed the experience of bowling in tandem with the Proteas’ talisman, but also knew the responsibility that was now being placed on his shoulders.

“I was more nervous in the second innings, when I knew we knew we had to make a play to win the game,” he said.

“But bowling with KG makes your job a little easier. He is going to be outstanding pretty much almost every single time he bowls.

“You just have to keep it as simple as possible and keep doing your thing.”

At the moment, Burger is relishing doing the simple things because “I think it’s just sunk in for me that every wicket you take is for 60 million South Africans”.

He certainly is the man of the moment, and although not assured of his place at Newlands for the New Year Test – with the Proteas likely to recall specialist spinner Keshav Maharaj – they certainly have unearthed another high-quality paceman in the long line of South African fast bowlers.


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