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The rise of ’Bat man’

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Titans keeper produces an impressive showing for the Proteas to put some pressure on the struggling Quinton de Kock

SLOG MODE: Heinrich Klaasen of South Africa made a whirlwind 43 runs off just 27 balls in the Pink ODI at the Wanderers on Saturday. Picture: BackpagePix

One of South Africa’s major aims in this One-Day series with India was to assess options – as far as personnel and by extension combinations were concerned – and one of those options, may have provided a wake-up call to someone whose position looked locked in the national side at the start of the season.

It wasn’t just the runs that Heinrich Klaasen scored on Saturday night to help propel the Proteas to their first win in the six-match series against Virat Kohli’s men, it was the way in which he scored them.

“Calculated” was the word Klaasen himself used in describing the way he and David Miller set about putting the Indians under pressure, and it’s the word that best describes his 27-ball innings.

He swept, reverse swept, hit straight and in one instance of calculated risk, stepped 4.5 metres to his right, the border of the pitch itself, to pull leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal over square leg for four.

“That’s where the gaps were,” he said of that shot. “I needed to do something, I can’t describe, it was my only boundary option. He bowled quite wide, he was getting it to turn from out there and that was the ‘go-to’ shot and I pulled it off,” said Klaasen.

His partnership with Miller may have looked frantic, but the boundary shots they produced were all comfortably within their capabilities, and especially in Klaasen’s case, playing in just his second match for South Africa, they illustrated the kind of clear thinking and composure that would normally be associated with a veteran.

It was just one performance, but couple it with his consistency at domestic level in the last two seasons and his obvious leadership qualities, which have matured rapidly at the Titans, and its clear South Africa have a viable option to call on instead of Quinton de Kock.

Unchallenged

In the four years since his international debut, De Kock has been the first-choice wicketkeeper for the Proteas with little in the form of competition for his spot. Dane Vilas’s star briefly flickered back in the 2015/16 season, but De Kock has for the most part been unchallenged at national level – until now.

He’s had a wretched season with the bat; failing to register a half-century in any of his last 13 innings across all formats. He’s currently sidelined with a bruised wrist, which has required a cast that one teammate joked would prevent him from going fishing.

Far more seriously though, there have been whispers around De Kock this season that his work ethic is not what it should be, and perhaps seeing Klaasen achieve success could prove to be a wake-up call for the precocious left-hander.

His injury will keep him sidelined for the remainder of the ODIs against the Indians and the subsequent three-match Twenty20 International series, meaning more opportunities for Klaasen to impress the selectors, and increase the pressure on De Kock before the Australian Test series starts in March.

“Hopefully Quinny recovers quickly, he’s a big loss for our team,” Klaasen – understandably diplomatic – remarked on Saturday night.

At the same time he added, that his performance at the Wanderers was and indication that he was able to perform, under pressure at the highest level.

“I was quite disappointed with my debut (at Newlands). I enjoy playing spinners – I do get out to them – but it’s a good challenge and the way I got out in my debut, it was tough, that was a very soft dismissal, and I don’t like that kind of thing.

“To put in a performance like (Saturday), getting a second opportunity, it obviously boosts my confidence a lot.”

The two sides head for Port Elizabeth where the fifth ODI will be played tomorrow.