After conceding the first three ODIs, South Africa desperately needed a hero to lift the morale of the dressing room in the ongoing six-match ODI series against India. In the fourth ODI at Wanderers, the Proteas camp did find an inspiring figure in wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen.
Amidst the buzz surrounding around the return of certain AB de Villiers, Klaasen scored a 27-ball 43 to take South Africa home with 5 wickets in hand and 15 balls to spare.
Addressing the media after the much-needed win, Klaasen said: “It’s a massive, massive confidence-booster for us. We didn’t have the confidence but just to get the first win has lifted the spirits in the change room.”
The 26-year-old also stated that he was surprised by the Indian captain’s decision to persist with the wrist spinners, despite the duo of Kuldeep and Chahal going for plenty.
“I was very surprise. David (Miller) and I thought they would have kept them (the pacers) at back for two overs each. But I think how this series went that led them to bowl their spinners for the remaining of the overs. But I was very surprised about it,” Heinrich Klaasen added.
The wicketkeeper batsman put on a 74-run stand for the fifth wicket with David Miller, who got a reprieve when he was at 7 owing to a Chahal no-ball. Miller eventually went on to score 39 off 28 balls. No wonder, Klaasen feels it was a lucky moment for the hosts.
“It was definitely a momentum changer for us, getting that free hit on David’s wicket. He’s a cool, calm and experienced cricketer and he just said, ‘Anything in our slot we need to back and whatever we decide to do, we need to do fully.’ So we were very calculated in our approach there. Maybe it didn’t look like it, but it was all calculated and planned out,” he said.
When asked about his match-winning innings laced with 5 boundaries and one six, Klaasen said, “I was quite disappointed in my debut game. I enjoy playing against spinners. Sure I do get out a lot against them but I do enjoy playing against them. It’s a good challenge. The way I got out in my debut game was tough. That was a soft dismissal, and I didn’t like it. But to put in a performance like today, to take that second opportunity obviously boosts my confidence a lot. I needed to recover quickly as well. This knock will do a world of confidence for me.”
The carnage of Proteas batsmen saw India’s wrist spinners conceding 119 runs in 11.3 overs in a rain-curtailed affair at Wanderers. In contrast, the duo of Kuldeep and Chahal have picked up 21 wickets in the first three ODIs.
On being asked whether South Africa has sorted out the problem against spinners, Klaasen said, “I wouldn’t say (we have solved the spin riddle). The problem at beginning of series was that we didn’t pick the chinaman (Yadav). That obviously makes the difference not to be able to score against him. No one really struggled to pick Chahal but he seemed to pick up a lot of the wickets. We struggled to pick up the chinaman’s variations. But we did a lot of homework on him over the last 2-3 days and that seemed to work today.”
Even though India lost the fourth ODI, they are still leading the six-match ODI series by 3-1. The fifth ODI is slated to be held at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth on Tuesday (February 13).