Heinrich Klaasen battled through cramps and dehydration to score an epic Cricket World Cup century against England. And he is hungry for more.
For many years, Indian fans were infatuated with AB de Villiers’ ball-striking ability.
But there may just be a new Proteas batter, also from Pretoria, that has them on their feet whenever he walks to the crease in future.
Heinrich Klaasen entered this Cricket World Cup as arguably the world’s most in-form white-ball batter for the past 18 months. On Saturday, he closed the debate with a breathtaking 109 off 67 balls to help the Proteas demolish world champions England by a record 229 runs.
It was an innings of Spartacus proportions. Klaasen battled through cramps and dehydration, along with the pain of being struck flush by a toe-crushing 149km/h yorker from England’s Mark Wood.
But instead of wilting in the Mumbai heat, he rose like a gladiator, wiped off the dust of the Wankhede Stadium coliseum, and belted the next two balls for six and a four to bring up his century.
“Yeah, I had to dig really, really deep there. I didn’t have any energy left,” Klaasen said.
“It’s up there with my best ever. The conditions were brutal. It’s just proper heat, sapped out all the energy. I was told to not run my runs too hard, save energy because the heat out there is extreme,” Klaasen said.
“It’s like just breathing in hot air, and every time you try to run, it’s just sapping more and more energy.
“And then at the end of the day, your body just doesn’t want to work with you anymore.
“It’s just like almost running in a sauna for the whole innings, which is what we obviously prep for – and we’re used to these conditions – but it still takes a lot out of the body. I really had to dig deep mentally.
“Physically, I was not in a good space, but mentally, I had to dig very deep there.”
The Proteas needed someone to put up their hand and get their World Cup campaign back on track after the shock defeat to the Netherlands in the previous match.
And then losing captain Temba Bavuma 15 minutes before the start due to illness added to the pressure.
Bavuma’s stand-in, Reeza Hendricks, played his part with a magnificent 85, but it was Klaasen’s brilliance – along with Marco Jansen’s career-best 75 not out that provided the Proteas with the impetus they were searching for.
“Jansen was next level … He kept me going, and should get this (Player of the Match) award. His runs are so vital,” Klaasen said.
“I’m so chuffed and happy for him the way he executed. That’s the best I’ve seen him hit a cricket ball in a very long time.”
Klaasen was equally pleased that the Proteas could prove that the Netherlands defeat was a mere aberration, and that their World Cup campaign is now firmly back on track.
“Yes, it was a big low for us, but it didn’t mean that we’re a bad team, or after one bad performance that we’re not playing good cricket,” he said.