On the eve of the Pink-Day ODI, Chris Morris spoke about how the occasion for some reason makes South Africa bring it on. Morris was playing only his second ODI at home when he first experienced the atmosphere, and he smacked 62 off 38 to win South Africa a chase of 263 from 210 for 8; Kyle Abbott scored just three runs in a 52-run stand. Morris spoke of how Dwaine Pretorius became a hero in his first Pink-Day experience last year. He called for a new hero this time.
Two weeks ago, this year’s hero was looking for ways to find a ticket to this year’s sold-out match. Heinrich Klaasen, the unassuming, tall wicketkeeper, who under the helmet looks and walks like Martin Guptill, had no inkling he would be playing for South Africa this month. Then Faf du Plessis injured himself and gave him a chance to experience travelling with the team, before an injury to Quinton de Kock gave Klaasen a debut.
Klaasen’s second ODI happened to be the Pink Day, a game South Africa have never lost, a game that they were threatening to lose despite everything going their way: India chose to bat despite a forecast of rain, the weather delivered them a T20-like target after India had almost bowled their fast bowlers out, and the spinners were struggling with the wet ball. And yet, with their talisman AB de Villiers gone with the game in the balance, South Africa were back to square one: shaky middle order against India’s wristspinners.
Klaasen, though, brought a sense of calm with his calculated hitting. His targeting of the short boundary was exemplary even if it meant going against the turn. After he hit Yuzvendra Chahal for one boundary over midwicket, Chahal resorted to bowling wide outside off. The field had sort of given it away, and Klaasen kept shuffling well wide, sometimes even hitting balls that would otherwise have been called wides. On one occasion he made connection with a ball 4.5 metres wide of the off stump, and still managed to drop it over square leg and into the short boundary.