Nortje helps fire Proteas to win over Sri Lanka in World Cup opener

South Africa’s Anrich Nortje was the Player of the Match in the Proteas’ victory over Sri Lanka at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York yesterday. | AFP

South Africa’s Anrich Nortje was the Player of the Match in the Proteas’ victory over Sri Lanka at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York yesterday. | AFP

Published Jun 3, 2024


Zaahier Adams

Sri Lanka: 77 all out

Nortje 4-7, Rabada 2-21, Maharaj 2-22, Baartman 1-9, Mendis 19

South Africa: 80-4

De Kock 20, Klaasen 19*, Hasaranga 2-17

South Africa win by six wickets

The International Cricket Council tries it damnedest to differentiate the T20 World Cup from the often overly glorified Indian Premier League.

The strategy relies on promoting the global event as one which showcases a much higher level of class and skill. Well, they have certainly made a point here at the newly-constructed Nassau County International Cricket Ground in New York by serving up a surface much more bowler-friendly than the highways routinely seen at the IPL.

Whether it is the smartest way of attracting a new audience in the uncharted waters of the US remains to be seen, though.

The Proteas, who play three of their group matches at the venue, won’t be complaining, though, after claiming a comfortable six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the Group D T20 World Cup opener.

There was pace and bounce from the outset, which continued throughout the day, while there was also swing with the new ball after Sri Lanka’s skipper Wanindu Hasaranga had surprisingly opted for his team to take first strike.

The lanky Marco Jansen set the tone up front as he immediately settled into a fullish length, which will do wonders for his confidence, after suffering blowouts in his last two matches at the 50-over World Cup in India last year.

But it was Anrich Nortje that would have had the biggest smile on seeing the conditions. After Proteas coach Rob Walter had described Nortje as having “landed himself in a perfect storm” after his inauspicious return from a lengthy injury the past couple of months, the fast bowler needed that little extra bit of help to flick the switch.

But flick the switch he did indeed with Nortje bristling in to show off the X-factor that Walter believes is the point of difference that makes the 30-year-old “a world-class performer”.

After an insistent, constantly probing spell that made full use of the capricious pitch, Nortje finished with career-best T20 figures of 4-7 to help dismantle the former champions for a record low 77 all out in just 19.1 overs.

Nortje was unremitting in his ferocity and unwavering in intent, which certainly bodes well for the Proteas for the duration of the tournament.

It was, though, a complete bowling performance with seamer Ottniel Baartman becoming the first Protea to pick up a wicket with his first ball in T20 World Cups before left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj (2-21) claimed wickets off successive deliveries in the ninth over, while Kagiso Rabada also snared 2-21.

Such was the Proteas’ dominance with the ball, and Sri Lanka’s woeful display with the bat, that the first six of the innings only sailed into the stands in the 13th over, which also brought up the 50.

In their turn at bat, the Proteas discovered that the surface had not tamed down, though, as they were required to show great application to haul in the meagre total.

There were ominous signs when Reeza Hendricks departed in the second over before captain Aiden Markram followed him to the dugout a couple of overs later.

And the contest would certainly have been much closer had Kusal Mendis not spilled a straightforward chance offered by Tristan Stubbs when the youngster had yet to open his account.

And even though Stubbs failed to fully capitalise after the early let off, eventually departing for a torturous 13 off 28 balls, which was shortly after Quinton de Kock’s dismissal for 20, Sri Lanka just did not have the luxury of being able to drop catches and still have enough runs to play with.

Heinrich Klaasen, lurking at the back end as the game’s most prolific striker, closed off the game in emphatic fashion with a couple of boundaries to get the Proteas’ World Cup campaign up and running in a positive manner.