Five-wicket Nortje mystified by late dramas as West Indies fight back

South African fast bowler Anrich Nortje was at a loss to explain a second successive day of late batting collapses at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday.

The second day of the first Test ended dramatically with the West Indies hitting back after their batting crumbled after tea.

Nortje took four wickets inside four overs, finishing with figures of five for 36, as the West Indies crashed to 212 all out, giving South Africa a first innings lead of 130.

But the West Indies bowlers grabbed four South African wickets before the close, leaving the hosts reeling at 49 for four, an overall lead of 179.

“In general at SuperSport Park, wickets fall late in the day,” Nortje told journalists. “Maybe it’s (the effect of) the sun. I don’t really have an explanation but you do see the ball misbehaving.”

Of the 24 wickets that have fallen during the first two days, 18 have been between tea and the close – seven on the first day and 11 on Wednesday.

West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood, who made 37 and shared a partnership of 64 with top-scorer Raymon Reifer (62) believed his team were right back in the match.

“We have been in this situation a few times before so we know what to do,” he said. “We have confidence in our bowlers to get the job done.”

Blackwood said he did not expect the West Indies to have to chase as many as 300 in the second innings.

“Obviously, as batters, we didn’t put enough runs on the board but there’s a second innings to come.

“South Africa have some world-class bowlers so we know we’re not going to get much but once we do get opportunities to score we have to make full use of them.”

- 'Not ideal' -

Nortje admitted that South Africa’s second innings collapse was “not ideal” but said he was confident that his team were in a strong position.

“Hopefully we can come up with one or two partnerships,” he said. “The more we can get the better but 250-plus will be very competitive.”

Nortje was supported by a group of spectators who quickly became dubbed “Anrich’s Army” as they imitated his movements and celebrations.

“I really enjoyed it. It kept me quite calm in a way,” he said.

It was his fourth five-wicket haul and took his tally of wickets to 69 in 19 Tests.

Nortje, 29, said every milestone was something to be savoured given South Africa’s bare-bones Test schedule over the next four years.

“Playing only four Tests a year I will probably never get to 50 Tests,” he said.

West Indies were looking reasonably solid at 169 for three 40 minutes after tea with Reifer and Roston Chase building a patient partnership.

But both batsmen were out off consecutive balls. Reifer fell for 63 when he was caught behind off the last ball of a Marco Jansen over. Chase edged the first ball of Kagiso Rabada’s next over to first slip and was out for 22.

Then Nortje took over. He had earlier ended the Reifer-Blackwood partnership when he had Blackwood caught behind off an inside edge.

“Especially against the right-handers there was a bit of movement and we had a breeze which was in our favour,” he said.