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2020 in Review

Wisden’s ODI innings of the year, No.5: Heinrich Klaasen’s 123*

Ben Gardner by Ben Gardner
@Ben_Wisden 4 minute read

After a tough period in ODI cricket, Heinrich Klaasen’s maiden ODI century suggested South Africa might be on the road to turning things around.

Heinrich Klaasen 123* (114)

South Africa v Australia
Boland Park
1st ODI
February 29

South Africa’s 3-0 ODI series win over Australia in March was swiftly consigned to the margins of history. It’s understandable that little import was given to it at the time, coming as it did only a couple of weeks before the world stopped turning, and with the world’s attention rightly focussed on the barrier-breaking World Cup taking place down under rather than on a bilateral encounter between two teams who rarely go long without facing off.

But, for the hosts at least, it deserves to be remembered as something quite significant, at least a beacon of hope in an otherwise desperate year, and potentially something greater, the first proper statement of intent from a side who had fallen some way from the 50-over top table. Their exit from the 2019 World Cup had hurt, and while that’s normally the result when the Proteas and global tournaments mix, this was different, not an unjust squandering of years of hard work, but simply a confirmation of their new found place in the grand scheme. South Africa couldn’t complain too much about finishing seventh, and it stung.

Now, with a whitewash against one of that tournament’s semi-finalists under their belt, as well as a draw against the world champions, the Proteas can once again feel, tentatively, like a team on the up, at least in ODI cricket. Hearteningly, the victory against Australia was claimed not off the backs of the old guard summoning one last effort, but by an emerging set of talents, either making their maiden steps onto the international scene or emerging from the shadows after time on the periphery.

Heinrich Klaasen falls into the latter camp, and it was he who provided the platform in the first ODI, just as it seemed that South Africa’s brave new era was unravelling before it had begun. Australia had picked a crack pace attack, with Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins joined by Josh Hazlewood after his bizarre World Cup exclusion, and between them they had the Proteas on the ropes. Starc had struck debutant Janneman Malan boot first from the first ball of the contest, Quinton de Kock edged a Hazlewood stock ball, and Temba Bavuma played on off Cummins to see Klaasen, at No.5, come in inside the 10th over.

He had for company another debutant, Kyle Verreynne, and though Klaasen’s 14-game ODI career had brought just one half-century to this point, he readily embraced the role of the seasoned veteran, rebuilding without stagnating, slowly ticking through the gears, before taking South Africa out of reach at the death.

Runs came slowly at first – Klaasen was nine off 24 before the introduction of D’Arcy Short and Mitchell Marsh offered some respite – but it was David Miller’s entrance that saw him truly up the tempo, with Hazlewood and Zampa taken for three boundaries in three consecutive overs. The first two were smashed disdainfully to midwicket, while the third was delightful, a picture-perfect straight drive to celebrate a half-century. Still, this was a knock about much more than big hits; it was a supremely paced innings on a two-paced pitch, expertly assessed and dealt with through plenty of clubbed and squirted singles.

It was hot, hard work, with the heady temperatures sparking bushfires nearby that almost saw the match cancelled, and it summed up Klaasen’s perseverance until now. Without a proper run in the team, the 29-year-old had been forced to feed off scraps. When his moment to shine came, he grabbed it, following up his maiden century with half-centuries in the next two games, sealing the Player of the Series award in the process. At last, South Africa had reason to smile.

The shot

46.6 Pat Cummins to Heinrich Klaasen, SIX

Having celebrated fifty with a straight drive, the shot to mark three figures was altogether more raucous. Cummins rolled his fingers, Klaasen picked it, stood still, waited and swung. The resulting hit flew miles, somewhere over the leg-side.

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