Hardik Worah
15 Sep 2023 | 07:41 PM

Welcome to the brutal world of Heinrich Klaasen

The middle-order batter spoke about “raising the intensity” after the Proteas lost the second ODI and boy did he back his words

It’s been a long time coming. What Heinrich Klaasen did to Australia at SuperSport Park on Friday (September 15) was always on the cards, considering the form he has been of late. However, not in his wildest dreams, the 32-year-old would have thought he would end up doing what he did to Adam Zampa and four other Australian bowlers.

Whenever Heinrich Klaasen does well, people often start playing around with his surname, throwing words like Klaasic Klaasen or Klaasy Klaasen… But in the fourth One-Day International, the right-handed batter was brutal, not much ‘Klassy’. And there was nothing nice about the way he treated Australian bowlers.  

Klaasen smoked 174 off 83 deliveries and registered the highest individual score for a No. 5 batter in the 50-over format. The big man clobbered 13 maximums and as many fours during his stay in the middle, helping South Africa amass 416/5 in their 50 overs. Despite operating at a strike rate of 209.6, Klaasen ended his knock with a control percentage of 90.4, and that must tell you how cleanly he struck the ball.

Also read - Klaasen powers to fourth fastest 150; Zampa concedes the joint-most runs

The middle-order batter spoke about “raising the intensity” after the Proteas lost the second ODI, and boy did he back his words. The surface at SuperSport Park is heaven for batting, and Klaasen made the most of it. Australia did keep South Africa in check in the first half of the innings, letting them score only 120 in the first 25 overs.

The visitors would have been hoping to keep South Africa around 280-290, but they weren’t ready for what was about to hit them. Aiden Markram, who smacked a century in the last ODI, fell to Michael Neser on the first delivery of the 26th over and in walked Klaasen. What happened next was South Africa scored 296 in the next 25 overs, with 173 of those coming in the last 10 overs, which is the most in an innings of ODIs (since ball data available)

Klaasen didn’t go crazy from the word go and scored 24 off his first 25 deliveries. He finally broke the shackles in the 34th over, getting a four and a six off Adam Zampa’s bowling. The leg-spinner had a terrible day on the field, leaking 113 runs in his 10 overs, which is the joint-most in the history of ODIs.

Once Klaasen broke free, the batter didn’t spare anyone and had a crazy partnership with David Miller for the fifth wicket. The two put on 222 runs and scored those runs at a rate of 14.5, which is also the most for a pair involved in a 200-plus partnership in this format. It was still Klaasen who stole most of the limelight.

He was extremely ruthless against Zampa. He only faced 17 deliveries from the legspinner and smashed him for 50 runs, including six maximums and two fours. Even against Marcus Stoinis, Klaasen got 45 off 20 deliveries, getting three fours and four sixes. From 24 off 25, Klaasen moved to 51 off 36 before completing his third century off just 57 deliveries, the second-fastest against Australia after Virat Kohli’s 52-ball ton in 2013.

In fact, 102 of his total runs came in the final 10 overs. No matter what Mitchell Marsh threw at him, Klaasen knocked it out of the park with ease. Most of his runs came through the long-on and deep mid-wicket region, and that’s always been his strength. With so many runs on the board, Australia didn’t stand a chance and ended up losing the game by 164 runs.

“I am trying to take everything in. It's a special day, you try to take in everything. I can't remember a lot about the innings, have to go back and probably watch it tonight. The wicket looked a little bit slow; they bowled in incredible areas. We just spoke about taking it to the 35th over and then see what happens. It got a little bit better and they went off that area and we cashed in. The ball travels nicely. We knew we could do some big damage,” said Klaasen after South Africa levelled the five-match series 2-2.

The extent of this “damage” was severe, but there’s a reason why we started with this: it was a long time coming. Klaasen has had phenomenal numbers in ODIs since 2022; this knock was always around the corner. In 14 innings since the start of last year, he has scored 704 runs at an average of 58.67 and a strike rate of 135.9, studded with two fifties and as many centuries.

The reason why he is so dangerous is because he is equally good against both pace and spin. Since 2022, the right-hander has an average of 77.8 and a strike rate of 125.48 against pace and averages 45 with a strike rate of 151.44 against spin. The ability to find boundaries against spin makes him a perfect batter for the last two phases of the innings.

Amongst batters who have scored at least 500 runs in the middle overs (11-40) since 2022, Klaasen has the best strike rate (127.6) and balls/boundary (6.2). Overall, as well, Klaasen’s strike rate of 135.9 is the best amongst batters who have scored at least 500 runs since the start of last year. 

South Africa have been one of the best batting sides in this format since 2022, and Klaasen has played a massive role in that. In only three of his last 14 innings, the 32-year-old has been dismissed for a score of less than 27. His numbers in the 20-over format are equally good, and it would be an understatement if we say he is currently South Africa’s best white-ball batter.

The Proteas are far from a perfect team, but in Heinrich Klaasen, they have a fearsome game-changer who they can rely on not only in the series decider on Sunday but also in the upcoming ODI World Cup in India.

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