Heinrich Klaasen © AFP
Heinrich Klaasen © AFP

Amid the pile of defeats in limited-overs, South Africa have found a star in Heinrich Klaasen. The wicketkeeper-batsman slammed a 30-ball 69 at his home ground, SuperSport Park, Centurion, to guide South Africa to a win over India in the second T20I. Klaasen’s classic helped South Africa level the series 1-1.

Klaasen was severe on Yuzvendra Chahal on Wednesday. Even in the fourth ODI, he targeted the Indian leg-spinner as South Africa won their only match of that series at Johannesburg. Even that was not the first time that Klaasen fancied Chahal.

During India A’s tour of South Africa in 2017, Klaasen belted a hundred against Pretoria. His 108-ball 127 was his maiden List A hundred as South Africa A put up 266 only to succumb to India A skipper Manish Pandey’s brilliance. Pandey top-scored for the senior team on Wednesday but it was Klaasen who had the last laugh this time.

Playing leg-spin

“I fancy him [Chahal] quite a lot,” Klaasen told reporters after the match. “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 legspinner’s career so he can go up, sometimes it works. Tonight it worked perfectly. I just tried to cash in as much as possible.

Heinrich Klaasen, JP Duminy upset India in 2nd T20I; South Africa keep series alive
Heinrich Klaasen, JP Duminy upset India in 2nd T20I; South Africa keep series alive

“It wasn’t planned. But the way the seamers bowled, the cutters, they’ve got very, very good skills as I have said before, 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 [13th over] I got to target. Maybe if I can get 20-odd in this over.”

Chahal was plundered for 64 runs from his four overs.

Duminy’s support

Klaasen credited his skipper JP Duminy for the support. In fact, Duminy stayed till the end, scoring 40-ball 64 not out to take South Africa home. Klaasen and Duminy added 93 runs off 49 balls.

“He [Duminy] was the key factor to my whole innings. Second over or the first over I faced, he told me this over needs to go for 10. He told me to just play my normal game and take the bowlers on. Luckily today it worked out,” Klaasen added.

Credits umpires

Rains played a spoilsport in the women’s match earlier in the day and threatened to do the same in the evening. It drizzled during South Africa’s batting and the hosts had kept an eye on the par DLS target.

“At the start, yes (kept an eye on DLS). I think credit must go to the umpires for keeping us out on the field. At some stage it actually drizzled quite hard. The first five or six overs, we actually tried to keep up with Duckworth-Lewis. Luckily on the fifth or the sixth over, the drizzle stopped. I said to Duminy, we can now actually stay one boundary under the DLS target, and it worked out.

“It’s small targets. I think the way we actually batted tonight, it’s a good way to chase a total. Keep up with the rate, keep up with Duckworth-Lewis. That just gave us small targets. When to go, when not to go. Maybe something to think about going forward,” he said.

‘No worries for QDK’

Klaasen called it a “dream” to play on his home ground and help his country win. The 26-year-old is pleased with the contributions he has made in international cricket after coming in as a replacement for the injured Quinton de Kock. He isn’t thinking too far ahead and reckons de Kock “has nothing to worry about” and is a too good a player to be replaced now.

“No, not at all,” Klaasen sees no reason on why QDK 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

“If you look at Quinny [Quinton de Kock], 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. 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,” he said.