Heinrich Klaasen smashed 69 off 30 balls to lead South Africa to a series-levelling win
“My dream is fulfilled. Now it becomes a job.”
Players will struggle to top this as a description of how it feels to fill in for an injured player, win a couple of games for your country, and then go back to being the second rung. Heinrich Klaasen has come a long way from looking for tickets for the Pink Day ODI. He not only played that match but actually won it for his country. Now he has won them their only other limited-overs game in a one-sided match-up between the injury-hit hosts and the rampant Indian side.
Yet, Klaasen is under no illusion. He knows the injured Quinton de Kock is too good a player to be left out when fit despite all that he himself has done in de Kock’s absence. “No, not at all,” Klaasen said without a moment of hesitation when asked if de Kock should be worried. “I think he is a world-class player. And our change room definitely misses him. Especially top of the order. I don’t think he has anything to worry about yet.”
Still Klaasen doesn’t necessarily need to replace de Kock to play for South Africa. That middle order has shown signs of brittleness, and two keepers could actually share the workload too. He still doesn’t think he might have a chance in a full-strength South Africa side, but that’s not at the top of his mind yet. “If you look at Quinny, AB [de Villiers] and Faf [du Plessis] and with Temba [Bavuma] coming back as well, they are world-class players. So, in some sort, to put my name in that list as well. It is definitely a very important stage of my career. Put myself on the map or in this set-up. But if this is my last game, the weekend one, so be it, I am happy with it. My dream is fulfilled. Now it becomes a job.”
And a dream is exactly what it has been for Klaasen, to help his side win a game at his home ground, Centurion. He will be watching re-runs of this innings before he moves on to the next match. “That’s great fun [to be able to execute your shots in pressure situations],” Klaasen said. “But in that moment you don’t usually think how fun it is. Next ball you think where it is going, so [you] need to figure couple of plans and areas where to hit, try to figure out where he is going to bowl to. But looking back, I’d probably go back home tonight, probably watch it, hopefully, if recorded. But later tonight or tomorrow I will enjoy it.”
Klaasen might have once again had the damp conditions going for him, but he continues to be the only South Africa batsman to have truly dominated the India legspinners. In Centurion, he targeted Yuzvendra Chahal brutally, hitting five of his 12 balls for sixes and taking 41 runs off them. It turns out he has always taken a shine to legspin bowling.
“I fancy him quite a lot,” Klaasen said, without a hint of arrogance. “Especially when I was in amateur cricket, there were a couple of quality leggies in that time when I started my career. I faced Shaun von Berg at the Titans a lot as well. We always made a joke that I need to finish the other leggie’s career so he can go up. Sometimes it works. Tonight it worked perfectly. I just tried to cash in as much as possible.”
Chahal’s second over was all class from Klaasen with an extra-cover drive for a six and a switch-hit too. Klaasen was all muscle in Chahal’s third, which went for 23. “It [that assault] wasn’t planned,” Klaasen said. “But the way the seamers bowled, the cutters, they’ve got very, very good skills. I just fancied my chances more against the leggie, had more options against him. So when I got the first two boundaries, I thought this is the over I have got to target. Maybe if I can get 20-odd in this over.”
The 20-odd came, the chase was sealed, and Klaasen walked back to a huge applause from his home crowd. If it is indeed just a dream, there is one more match to go, which, thanks to him, is not a dead rubber.