Nortje passes on expertise as U19 World Cup Super Six stage begins

Dubai, (UNI) As the ICC Men’s U19 Cricket World Cup moves to the Super Six phase, South Africa senior quick Anrich Nortje has given his advice to the future stars desperate to help their team qualify for the semi-finals.

Twelve teams remain in the hunt for the trophy via the Super Six groups, with teams carrying over their group stage points accrued against teams also progressing to the next phase.

Watching on as a tournament ambassador, the Proteas fast bowler has been impressed by the demeanour of the players at the tournament in spite of tournament pressures, in particular looking to the young men leading their teams in front of a global audience.

“The one thing that has stood out for me, so far in the tournament at least, is how everyone has looked so calm and composed on the field,” Nortje reflected in a column for the ICC’s Online Media Zone.

“Speaking to the captains pre-tournament, they were all very approachable and positive, and it didn’t feel like you were about to enter a tense World Cup environment. It just looked like they were so focused and knew what to do. They were relaxed,” Nortje said.

The cool and calm of the sides still in the running for the trophy will be tested further from January 30, with Group A and D teams facing off, as well as combatants from groups B and C.

For Nortje, it is now against tougher opponents and when the tournament moves closer to a climax where the demands and intensity of the tournament ramp up.

“It’s always tough. Once you get beyond the first stage in any tournament and you get closer to the end, it does get really hard, bodies are a little more tired and small mistakes begin to creep in, those can cause a bit of frustration in a team,” he said.

“This is where the best separate themselves from the rest. The teams that maintain their composure, assess their conditions and surroundings and what is required of them the best will most likely come out on top. It is hard, as there will be a lot of pressure,” Nortje said.

“I won’t say there will be fear of failure, but that does enter your thinking. You don’t want to fail or disappoint. You want to do really well,” he said.

There has been an extra expectation on his young countrymen, thrust into playing a tournament as hosts late after the tournament relocation. Despite a defeat to England, Juan James’ side topped a strong group also including the West Indies and Scotland, and from the outside it looks as if they are relishing the chance to play at home.

“Whether they feel it or not, there is pressure playing at home. It is a big tournament and you want to do well for everyone you represent,” Nortje said.

“You’ve got a lot of extra support that you’ve never had in your life. So there’s a certain expectation to do well, but it’s something you have to put behind you and just focus ball-by-ball, game-by-game,” he said.

Leading South Africa’s attack has been Kwena Maphaka. Still just 17, Maphaka has done everything asked of him, from swinging the new ball and hitting good lengths to bowling yorkers on cue or digging in short when needed.

Watching on as Maphaka claimed a five-wicket haul against the West Indies before two more to his tally against Scotland, Nortje relished in the opportunity of watching a potential teammate down the line.

“The way he has been spreading his yorkers and bumpers, and swinging the ball as well, has been really impressive and he has looked like he has a clear plan of attack with the ball,” he said.

“It has been nice to see how he seems to take things in his stride. That opening game in particular when South Africa had their backs to the wall against a battling West Indies – he responded and ensured they started the competition with a big result.”

As the game’s next generation moves into more unchartered territory, Nortje provided his outlook, stressing once more that not much needs to change to yield the same results at the next level.

“I would say try and stick to what brought you to where you are today. Don’t try to change anything. You guys have been playing amazing cricket and it’s great to see the high standards of play among these young talents,” he said.

“We spoke before the tournament about the brand, the excitement, everything that you guys are going to bring in. I think you guys have blown it away,” Nortje said.

Looking at the 12 teams left for his tournament predictions, Nortje stuck to his word from the beginning of the tournament for his semi-final predictions, and called for fans around the world to help their respective teams as they push for tournament supremacy.

“I’d still go with South Africa, Australia, India, and England,” Nortje said.

“Having seen how these teams have adapted to the World Cup stage makes me think they are best placed to push on from here. I’m quite excited for what is to come, and I’m sure everyone else is too,” he added.

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