WATCH: Pace will always be first prize for SA Cricket’s big winner Anrich Nortje

FILE - Anrich Nortje was named as Men’s player of the year at the Cricket South Africa awards. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

FILE - Anrich Nortje was named as Men’s player of the year at the Cricket South Africa awards. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Published Jul 8, 2023


Anrich Nortje is from farming stock in the Eastern Cape. His former national fast bowling coach used to refer to him as a ''proper Dutchman''.

He likes to keep things simple. Uncomplicated. No time for side-shows.

It's the way he approaches his fast bowling too. Hit a hard length at a good pace and the results will take care of itself.

The plan certainly seems to be working for the 29-year-old after the Proteas Express walked away with his second SA Cricket Men's Player of the Year award within three years on Friday evening in Midrand.

''It really is special to receive the award. It is not something you really think about during the season,'' Nortje told reporters.

''The main thing is to understand what your strength is, and then to apply it in the game. I think the nice thing for me is to do Anrich, and not have to change up to things that I'm not used to.''

During the Cricket SA gala evening that had all the colour, razzmatazz and golden glitter back again after a couple of years in hibernation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there were video clips played on the big screens showing Nortje uprooting England's Jonny Bairstow middle stump and bursting through the defence of Australia’s Steve Smith.

Although both these absolute snorters from Nortje lost out to his new-ball partner Kagiso Rabada’s dismissal of West Indian captain Kraigg Brathwaite in the ''Best Delivery of the Year''category, which seemed bizarre to most observers on the night, it certainly showed that even the best batters in the world struggle to deal with genuine pace.

At the time Bairstow was in the midst of the purplest of patches that saw England's ginger-haired maestro bludgeon six centuries in a calendar year that gave birth to the ''Bazball'' phenomenon, while Smith remains arguably the finest Test batter of the modern era.

Nortje concedes that being able to hurl down thunderbolts at breakneck speed is the X-factor that separates him from the mortals.

''Pace does make a massive difference,'' he said. ''Sometimes you can sense as a bowler that a batter may be under pressure or is uncomfortable when you are bowling at a certain pace.

''It's something not a lot of guys have. But it's all about the rhythm on the day and the best thing to do is run with it when you can and cash when you can.''

Nortje missed out on the 2019 World Cup in the United Kingdom with a fractured thumb. It would have been his maiden appearance at a major ICC tournament after playing just a handful of internationals.

Four years later he’s now had the experience of a couple ICC T20 World Cups and a few seasons playing in the Indian Premier League on the subcontinent.

He certainly feels better prepared to take on the world’s best in October.

''When I started my career I played a good couple of years only red-ball cricket. I played quite a number of first-class matches. I do take that experience into my game in white-ball cricket too.

''I will try and adapt to what the conditions allow. Try to be a little smarter. The wickets can be very flat and the ball comes on nicely when it's a bit quicker. It is just about being focused and accurate.''