JOHANNESBURG – Two weeks ago, Heinrich Klaasen couldn’t even get a ticket for the ‘Pink ODI’.
Just after 10pm on Saturday night, he was being toasted as the game’s most influential player after helping to keep the Proteas in the ODI series against India.
Klaasen scored a magnificent unbeaten 43 off only 27 balls (5x4, 1x6) to help propel the South Africa to a five-wicket win via the Duckworth/Lewis method.
He shared a crucial partnership of 72 for the fifth wicket with David Miller (39, 28 balls, 4x4, 2x6) and then an unbeaten stand of 33 off just 12 balls with Andile Phehlukwayo (23, 5 balls, 1x4, 3x6) as South Africa kept alive hopes of at least squaring the six-match series with India.
“It’s an unbelievable experience that I had today,” said the 26-year-old wicket-keeper batsman, who was playing in just his second ODI.
“I’ve always dreamt about this. Two weeks, I told my ‘missy’ that I didn’t have tickets to come to the ‘Pink Day’…
“The crowd was unbelievable. I’ve never experienced something like that. At one stage on the field, the crowd were going ballistic and I couldn’t hear any nicks... it was an unbelievable vibe.”
Klaasen was very influential in creating that vibe as he and Miller rescued the Proteas when all was seemingly lost following AB de Villiers’ dismissal, with 100 runs still needed for victory and just 11 overs remaining.
India had earlier scored 289/7, thanks to a hundred from Shikhar Dhawan and a superb 75 from Virat Kohli.
A lengthy rain delay midway through the eighth over of South Africa’s chase saw the target revised to 202 off 28 overs for the hosts.
“Between myself and Dave, we can let the run rate go up to 12 or even 13 an over, because especially here at the Wanderers, the ball tends to fly a bit,” Klaasen explained.
A couple of let-offs for Miller completely changed the tone of the Proteas’ chase.
He was dropped on six and then bowled by Yuzvendra Chahal off a no-ball on seven, following which he unleashed in furious fashion.
“It was definitely a momentum-changer for us, getting that free hit,” said Klaasen.
“He’s so cool, calm and experienced, and he said that anything that’s in our slot, we need to back ourselves to hit.
“We were very calculated in our approach, maybe it didn’t look like it, but it was all calculated and planned out.”
Miller was dismissed with South Africa still needing 28 off 26 balls, but a brief discussion between Klaasen and Phehlukwayo saw the game won with 15 balls still left.
“He hits the ball quite far,” Klaasen said of Phehlukwayo.
“He told me he mis-hit a couple out there – I wish I can hit it that far.
“But I said to him to keep his shape, get the front leg straight down the wicket, not to square leg, and that seemed to work lovely for him.
“He’s done it a couple of times. It was a valuable knock that took the pressure off me at the end of the innings.”