Anrich Nortje embraces 'proper Dutchman' nickname after showing rearguard grit

What are the characteristics of a “proper Dutchman”, the term of endearment South Africa’s bowling coach Charl Langevedlt used to describe Anrich Nortje?

“It’s a sense of trying to go out there and fight, and come hard and be aggressive, with a lot of heart,” Nortje explained, happy to hear that the nickname that has been attached to him for a “quite a long time” was on air for the first time on day one.

Langeveldt was describing Nortje’s back-bending efforts in the field but the man himself would like to apply the terms to all aspects of his game. “It’s something I try and pride myself on. When conditions get tough, when it’s 40 degrees, I try and be the guy to run and come hard,” Nortje said. “I try and make things happen with the ball in hand – not really with the bat but if I get an opportunity, if I have to take a few blows I am willing to do that.”

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For the second time in the series, Nortje’s rearguard as nightwatchman has put South Africa’s top-order to shame. At SuperSport Park, he spent two hours and seven minutes in the middle and faced 89 balls for an accomplished 40, which included a match-winning partnership of 91 with Rassie van der Dussen. At St George’s, Nortje batted for three hours and 11 minutes and faced 136 balls, more than South Africa’s top three combined, to score only 18 runs. When he was dismissed, he sunk to his haunches in disappointment, knowing how close he was to putting in a double shift on overnight watch.

“It’s trying to stay there for as long as possible. It’s not really about scoring runs for me, it’s about facing a few balls, as many as possible,” Nortje said.

Nortje faced more balls from Dom Bess than any other South African batsmen in this innings so far – 59 – and four fewer than Dean Elgar did against Mark Wood – 19. He saw Bess outfoxing the top five as they looked to take the English spinner on more than they did at Newlands. Nortje was not privy to the strategy but saw South Africa’s eagerness backfire on them.

“I’m not too sure how they (the top order) want to play it. I am not in the batting meeting, I can tell you that,” he said. “So I’m not too sure what they want to do but maybe one or two things could have gone differently, whether it’s taking him out the attack or just playing him positively and better, I don’t know.”

What Nortje does know is that it’s not helpful to weigh his efforts up against the specialists’ because their job descriptions are so different. “There’s a little bit of a bigger battle between them and the bowler rather than me. Even if I get a half-volley sometimes, I still block it,” Nortje said. ” For them, it’s about playing naturally as well in stages. You can’t really compare.”

Instead, what Nortje is interested in is measuring is his performance against Wood’s, the fastest bowler in the opposite camp. “I saw they had a comparison on the big screen and I was more interested in that when I was batting than anything else,” he said, although evasive action was also on his mind. Wood targeted Nortje’s rib-cage and later, his head, giving Nortje first-hand experience of what it must be like facing himself. “I haven’t really had to deal with that before in my career. It gives me a bit of confidence that I can do it. But it’s not the nicest thing, I am not going to lie,” he said.

Asked if the experience of facing Wood has made Nortje more sympathetic to batsmen who have to front up to him, he had a one-word answer: “No.”

That’s the answer a “proper Dutchman,” would give, that embodies the attitude South Africa have to adopt if they are to give themselves a chance of going to the Wanderers all-square. They are 92-runs away from avoiding the following-on and even if they get there, there are still two days left, some of which could be lost to rain. South Africa will be under the pump for most of that time but Nortje is up for it.

“We are positive we can save the game,” he said. “If we have to fight and we have to do what we have to do then we do that. We are not going to be worried about if there is weather around. We are going to come out here and focus on the next two days, fighting. Whatever we have to do to draw this Test match we are going to be up for that. We believe that.”

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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