Anrich Nortje’s Proteas debut a dream deferred

Anrich Nortje of the Proteas during the South African national men's cricket team press conference at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on March 01, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Anrich Nortje of the Proteas during the South African national men's cricket team press conference at Bidvest Wanderers Stadium on March 01, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

For Anrich Nortje‚ a national team bow is a case of a debut delayed‚ not a debut denied.

When Nortje was steaming in at full pace for the Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League towards the end of last year‚ it was a case of when‚ not if he was going to make his international debut.

An ankle injury put paid to that opportunity temporarily but he’s been in Ottis Gibson’s sights.

After taking eight wickets in three matches‚ Nortje was the talk of the MSL town but the 25-year-old Warriors fast bowler said his injury needed attention‚ but the wait has paid off.

“The injury I had was a niggle that came from a long way back. It got worse during the Mzansi Super League and I was disappointed to have pulled out so early in that tournament.

“I wanted to play for the full duration of the tournament but getting the operation done was for the best. I’m here now and I’ve got an opportunity to play and if I tried to push through‚ this wouldn’t have happened‚” Nortje said.

“I’m glad I made the decision to pull out even though there was the hype and the momentum I had on my side with the way I was performing for the Blitz.

“There was a bit of disappointment missing out on the Test call-up but the operation had to happen. You can’t play with a broken piece of bone in your ankle.”

Complacency was cited as one of the main reasons the Proteas relinquished their proud unbeaten Test record against Asian teams when they lost to Sri Lanka.

However‚ it may have been for the best because Sri Lanka haven’t had the best recent ODI record.

They still remain a dangerous outfit and of the Asian teams‚ except for Bangladesh‚ they’ve yet to win an ODI series in South Africa.

The Test series though proved there’s a first time for everything and Sri Lanka‚ who were unfancied going into the red-ball series after the travails of their Australasian tour‚ threw the cat amongst the pigeons with their performances in Durban and Port Elizabeth.

South Africa aren’t a sure-footed limited overs team and their batting issues were exposed by Pakistan even though the series was won 3-2.

Willow-wielding isn’t Nortje’s forte but should he make his international bow in the first ODI at the Wanderers on Sunday‚ it’ll be more about him wanting to prove that he’s an all-format specialist while also respecting the tourists.

“They’re a good unit and they showed in the Test series that they can hit a ball. They’re not afraid of playing aggressively and I think they’re a very good team‚” Nortje said.

“I don’t want to be seen as a person who performs in one specific format. I enjoy all formats as they present me with different challenges and different conditions. Every challenge is great for me.”

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