Magician Nortje credits Mulder for career-best Proteas haul

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Anrich Nortje (AFP)
Anrich Nortje (AFP)
  • Anrich Nortje was quick to point out that his career-best figures on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka was down to a collective effort.
  • The 27-year-old quick had a particularly good ally in Wiaan Mulder, who's fine spell just before lunch changed the course of the day's play.
  • Nortje is confident that his conditioning is optimal despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and says he feels really fit.

Any great headline act needs a good supporting one, which is why Anrich Nortje had little hesitation crediting the Proteas' collective bowling effort - and Wiaan Mulder in particular - for his career-best effort on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at the Wanderers on Sunday.

The 27-year-old quick continued his love affair with the Bullring, harvesting a haul of 6/56 as the Islanders collapsed in their first innings after choosing to bat first.

His figures improved on the 5/110 he took at the venue against England last season.

Yet it was the canny seamers of Mulder that proved a major factor in allowing the South Africans to take control.

Things had looked a tad dicey as Sri Lankan opener Kusal Perera blazed his way to a 67-ball 60 in the first session before the 22-year-old all-rounder produced a stunning spell of 3/1 just before lunch to help the hosts regain the initiative.

Nortje ruthlessly pounced.

"Wiaan's been unbelievable for us in this series to date," he said.

"It's great to have a guy in a seam attack that can maintain decent pace, but still keep things accurate. I actually remember saying before this series that I felt a guy like Dwaine Pretorius fulfilled a similar role last season against England.

"I think I took most of my wickets in that series when I was bowling in tandem with him and now it's the same case with Wiaan. It's been a brilliant dynamic. 

"When Wiaan comes on, he either takes a wicket or he allows the guy at the other end to do so. It's a great partnership to have. If he continues doing this, the rest of the attack's lives are going to get a lot easier."

Despite vividly showcasing that he put a lot of thought into his spells on Sunday, particularly post-lunch, Nortje believes that the key to success is simplicity.

"It's really about being tight and keeping things as simple as possible," he said.

"We don't try to go out and be elaborate. It's about staying in the channel and bowling a good line.

"When you keep doing that, you will eventually create opportunities because the runs are drying up."

Given the reservations that persist over the Covid-19 pandemic and it's effect on fitness, it's understandable that exponents like Nortje run the risk of falling foul of the injury curse.

Yet the paceman has seemingly emerged from lockdown stronger and clearly meaner too.

"I was fortunate enough to be able to move around a bit during that period and just try and prepare as normal as possible," said Nortje.

"That helped a lot. I also got a lot of overs under the belt at the IPL. I really didn't worry too much about my conditioning going into my first red-ball series of the season."

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