International Cricket

SA vs SL T20 World Cup 2024 – Anrich Nortje: Don’t need 20 sixes to make an entertaining game

Anrich Nortje, who put in his career-best T20I figures to bowl South Africa to a victory in a crucial match in one of the two groups of death, is not ready to buy a low-scoring game was a poor advertisement for cricket in the US. This was the first World Cup match ever in New York, and the conditions came in for criticism as an uneven pitch and slow outfield made scoring exceedingly difficult. Sri Lanka managed to make just 77 but also made South Africa sweat in pursuit of the target.

“I thought the game was great,” Nortje said when asked if this pitch was a fair reflection of the entertainment cricket sought to provide when it came to US. “I thought the entertainment was there. I thought the people were there. It was a brilliant spectacle. It was brilliant to see everyone, to hear the voices, the noise, the cheering. I thought it was a great day for cricket.

“It doesn’t always mean, correct me if I’m wrong, there needs to be 20 sixes in a game to make it entertaining. There’s still a lot of strategy that goes into the game. There’s a lot of skill that goes into the game, whether it’s sixes or fast bowlers or spinners, however it might be. So, I thought the game was a brilliant game. It was still a close game at the end of the day, another wicket or two, and things might have been different. We might have been in a little bit more trouble.

“It is great to be in New York. It’s great to be playing cricket in the US and…we’re excited for what’s to come. We’ve enjoyed the facilities; we’ve enjoyed the sort of getting around exploring as well. So, yeah, it’s brilliant and we are enjoying it.”

Ten drop-in pitches were brought in for the World Cup matches in New York. Four of them have been installed at the main venue for the matches, and six for the nets at a training facility 20 minutes from the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium. South Africa had an inkling what to expect when a couple of their batters walked out of the nets a day before the match.

“We didn’t know it [the pitches] is all from the same [time],” Nortje said. “We sort of assumed that they’re coming from the same, let me call it, factory. But yes, it was a little bit up and down in the nets as well. We need to train as well as the batters also need to train. It’s not always nice to go out and face balls jumping up, I think you adapt to it on the day and rather work on what you want to in the nets. And that’s why I think one or two of the guys eventually walked out, but they were still batting facing us. Also you don’t want to get hit. And a day before the game, you want to sort of go through your routines as a batter and they were fresh and spicy as well.”

While South Africa played Sri Lanka, India practised on the same pitches in the nets. India’s coach Rahul Dravid said the pitches at the nets were much spicier when they first went in but had settled down a little. Asked if the pitches were lively just because they are fresh and not played on, Nortje said there was nothing wrong with the pitches.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the wickets,” he said. “It’s [allowed to be] nice for bowlers as well. We are also allowed to get some sort of assistance. It’s different to what guys have been used to for the last few months or years. There’s a little bit more in the wicket for the bowlers and I don’t see anything wrong with that.

“When it’s flat, people want to see sixes…so the wheels should turn a little bit somewhere. I don’t know what to expect in the next few weeks. It might get a little bit flatter. It might get a little bit slower, faster. Who knows? I’m not the expert on it, but I think our biggest thing is just to sort of adapt to whatever gets thrown in front of us in the next game again. See in the first over what to expect and try and adjust as best as possible.”

Heinrich Klaasen, who finally calmed the nerves down with a six and a four off a single Wanindu Hasaranga over, tended to go with the wider narrative. “I don’t think it’s ideal for T20 cricket, but it’s still a good entertaining game,” he said. “Nevertheless our bowlers bowled extremely well. The margin for error for the bowlers is also not as big as you think. It’s not easy for the batters. It took like almost a mixture of Test cricket, one-day, batting-wise to get over the line. Luckily we didn’t chase 120. That would’ve been very interesting.”

However, Klaasen was just as happy with the atmosphere as Nortje was. “I said to the coach the DJ was on point, there was no interruptions from his side and the crowd was fantastic,” he said. “You can see the people are excited for the competition.”

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