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'Beast' Anrich Nortje eyes Shoaib Akhtar's record 161.3kph after delivering fastest ever IPL ball

"Maybe a good wicket, some adrenaline, the right combination and I can do it this IPL"

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
On Thursday, Anrich Nortje clocked 156kph, the fastest ball in IPL history. Now, the South Africa and Delhi Capitals fast bowler is aiming to break the speed barrier for the fastest recorded delivery in all of cricket. That record is currently held by former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who recorded 161.3kph on the speed gun during the 2003 World Cup fixture against England.
"Hopefully it's something I've got in me and it's definitely something I've wanted to do," Nortje told his Capitals team-mate R Ashwin on the latter's YouTube channel this week. "Maybe a good wicket, some adrenaline, the right combination and I can do it this IPL or maybe in the future."
Nortje's fastest ball was delivered on Wednesday in his first over against Rajasthan Royals opener Jos Buttler. The Royals batsman had already moved to his right to play a pre-meditated scoop, which zipped away for four past fine leg from the toe-end of the bat. At the post-match presentation, Nortje said he opted not not go for any variation and stuck to his "strength". He then bowled a 155 kph seaming in delivery that rocked back Buttler's off stump.
Nortje told Ashwin if he had seen the speed on the big screen at the ground, he might have cranked the pace further.
"I don't know. It's on the day," Nortje said, when Ashwin asked about the record. "I didn't know about the 156kph until after the game. Obviously there was nothing on the scoreboard. It would've been a bit of a help to get the blood flowing. But, I've got no idea."
Incidentally, the man whose IPL record Nortje broke was his hero and fellow South African Dale Steyn, who clocked 154.5kph in the 2012 edition while playing for the now defunct Deccan Chargers.
Steyn, who has been an inspiration for a generation of young fast bowlers, called Nortje as one of the "beasts" along with Jofra Archer and Kagiso Rabada, complimenting the trio for making fast bowling so attractive in T20 cricket.
"KG, Archer, Ana. I'd have paid to watch them live tonight," He had tweeted. "Fast bowling is strong, and this competition is being dominated by these beasts!"
Nortje acknowledged the mutual admiration, telling Ashwin readily why Steyn was his hero.
"Growing up, he [Steyn] was in the area where I was watching cricket. He's definitely one of the best. Watching that fire, energy, skill and consistency he brought to the game was unbelievable."
Not wanting to get "too technical", Nortje then went on to explain what helps him bowl fast. He attributed his success to a braced front leg and a strong core he has developed through intense gym work during lockdown.
"The two important things for me that changed it was, you have to be strong and understand what you're doing in the gym," he explained. "Not go for a beach body, but do the right things while gymming. The basic thing that helped me and is easy to control is a braced front leg and a strong front arm. So those are the two things I focus on."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo