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Nortje and fellow bowlers lead Proteas to comfortable opening T20 World Cup win over Sri Lanka

Nortje and fellow bowlers lead Proteas to comfortable opening T20 World Cup win over Sri Lanka
Anrich Nortje (left) of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Kamindu Mendis of Sri Lanka during the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York on 3 June 2024. (Photo: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)

South Africa chased down Sri Lanka’s record-low score of 77 to secure a victory in their first T20 World Cup match in New York.

South Africa’s bowlers bundled Sri Lanka out for 77 runs on a bowling-friendly wicket, to help the Proteas to a comfortable six-wicket win in their opening T20 World Cup match in New York on Monday. 

There was plenty of assistance for the bowlers, both lateral as well as variable carry, which made a seemingly easy chase very difficult for South Africa, who needed six batters and 16.2 overs to reach the target. 

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje, who has struggled for consistency since returning from an eight-month back injury-enforced layoff last year, was back to his best in pace and accuracy as he helped steamroll the Sri Lankan batters. 

He consistently clocked in the high 140km/h region as he picked up career-best figures of four wickets for seven runs in his four overs. 

The entire bowling lineup was impressive, with none of the five bowlers going for more than six runs an over. 

Left-arm quick Marco Jansen, although consistently threatening, particularly with the new ball, was the only bowler not to collect a scalp. 

South Africa’s batters made hard work of the chase on the tricky wicket, with the four batters who got in — Quinton de Kock (20 off 27), Aiden Markram (12 off 14), Tristan Stubbs (13 off 28) and Heinrich Klaasen (19 off 22) — all scoring under a run a ball. 

“The batting was a little up and down, but I think it speaks to quite a tough wicket,” skipper Markram said after the match. 

“It’s a tough one from a batting point of view. You try, as best as you can, to take the pitch out of it. 

“If one misbehaves or there’s an extra bit of bounce or lower bounce, it’s just one of those things. 

“Hopefully, we can take a bit of learning from it …  and come up with some ideas to put the bowlers under pressure.” 

A steady collapse 

Outside of the colourful team outfits and the white ball, you’d have been excused for thinking the first six overs of Sri Lanka’s innings was a Test match and not a T20. 

There were plays and misses aplenty, prodigious seam movement and at least one slip in place throughout.

The drop-in pitch — which was flown in from Adelaide, Australia — at the Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York made for fascinating cricket, although not the type typically associated with the shortest format. 

Nonetheless, South Africa’s bowlers exploited conditions as best they could, with opening bowlers Jansen and Kagiso Rabada whizzing deliveries past batter’s heads and creeping balls under their bats. 

Ottniel Baartman started the demolition, picking up a wicket in the third over with his first ball in World Cup cricket. Baartman bowled it full and wide, finding the thick outside edge of Pathum Nissanka’s blade. The ball was comfortably pouched by Klaasen at third man.

Sri Lanka were never able to get going from there, hitting their first boundary in the fifth over and their second in the 13th.

In between, five wickets fell. Nortje picked up Kamindu Mendis in the eighth before Keshav Maharaj joined the quicks to pick up two wickets in two deliveries. 

First, he had Sri Lankan skipper Wanindu Hasaranga stumped by De Kock and then bowled Sadeera Samarawickrama with one that just went on with the arm. 

Nortje collected his second wicket an over later with a vicious bouncer to end opener Kusal Mendis’ scratchy stay of 19 off 30 balls before dismissing Charith Asalanka an over later.

rabada proteas sri lanka

Kagiso Rabada of South Africa celebrates the wicket of Dasun Shanaka of Sri Lanka during the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York on 3 June 2024. (Photo: Robert Cianflone / Getty Images)

Angelo Mathews and Dasun Shanaka struck a few lusty blows late, but it wasn’t enough to get Sri Lanka close to 100, which might have been a competitive total on that wicket, as Nortje ended Mathews’ stay and Rabada cleaned up Shanaka. 

Sri Lanka were bowled out in the final over of the innings after Nortje made his fifth dismissal with a tidy run-out.

“[I’ve] been feeling good. It just hasn’t paid off in the last few games,” player of the match Nortje said after the clash. 

“It’s great to finally get a result. Some balls went my way, some wickets went my way. 

“It’s a great result for the team. Everyone bowled really well to restrict them to what we did.” 

Tough work 

Having examined the conditions in the first innings, the Proteas batters took their time settling in at the crease and eased their way to the target with the knowledge that the required rate was under four to the over. 

The gentle medium pace of veterans Mathews and Shanaka extracted the most movement from the up-and-down wicket for Sri Lanka. 

The slinger Nuwan Thushara got the first breakthrough, though, catching the edge of Reeza Hendricks’ bat in the second over. The ball jagged off the surface and was caught at slip by Kamindu Mendis, and Hendricks was dismissed for four. 

Markram, like everyone before him, struggled to get to grips with the wicket — outside of one exquisite, lofted cover drive for six. 

Shanaka squared Markram up in the penultimate over of the powerplay and Markram edged it, to be excellently caught at slip by Mendis.

It could have been two wickets in the over, but wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis dropped a straightforward catch off  Stubbs in the final ball of the over. 

Stubbs and De Kock steadily and without risk accumulated 28 runs off 39 deliveries to get the team within 26 runs of victory. Their seven-over stand contained only one boundary. 

After a vital knock of 20 off 27 deliveries, De Kock chipped a Hasaranga delivery right back to the bowler, who caught him to break the important partnership.

Stubbs lost his wicket two overs later, caught by Charith Asalanka at cover. 

But Klaasen and David Miller (six off six) knocked off the remaining 20 runs without much fuss.

South Africa’s next two matches, against the Netherlands and Bangladesh, are at the same venue. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    “The drop-in pitch — which was flown in from Adelaide, Australia”
    Blimey. Sounds like they should fly it back!

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