Match Analysis

How Heinrich Klaasen tamed a tricky Cuttack pitch

He did struggle at the start but went on to navigate his path smartly, scoring a match-winning 81

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
Shreyas Iyer faced 35 balls and still couldn't figure out a way to score runs on this particular Cuttack pitch. The new ball was moving around. Some of the deliveries kept low as well. Iyer tried to attack but wasn't successful. Then he tried to time the ball but that too proved futile.
His struggle ended only when he edged a legcutter behind the stumps. His 40 was the highest score in India's 148 for 6.
On the same pitch, Heinrich Klaasen, the man who caught Iyer, smashed 81 off just 46 balls. The next best for South Africa was Temba Bavuma's 35, which took 30 balls.
To many, including Dale Steyn, it looked like Klaasen was batting on a different pitch. But even Klaasen said after the game it wasn't that easy. So how did he cruise on a pitch where everyone else seemed to be scraping?
To say Klaasen didn't struggle at all would be a lie. He was on 4 off 12 balls at one stage, but he navigated his path smartly. Apart from that, he also had a couple of other things going for him.
When he came out to bat, South Africa were in a spot of bother at 29 for 3 in the sixth over. But the silver lining was that Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the only Indian bowler who looked threatening on the night and picked up those three wickets, was already into his third over.
At the end of eight overs, South Africa were 36 for 3 and needed another 113 from 12 overs at a rate of 9.41. But Klaasen's onslaught brought the equation down to 60 required from eight overs at a comfortable 7.50 runs per over.
His best shot, arguably, still came against a seamer. In the 14th over, Hardik Pandya bowled one full on the off stump. It wasn't easy to get under it and find the elevation but with a whip of the bottom hand, Klaasen sent it sailing over long-on. Two overs later, he killed the contest by hitting Chahal for two more sixes.
What Klaasen's innings also did was it allowed Bavuma to play the anchor's role. The two added 64 off 41 balls for the fourth wicket. Klaasen's contribution in that was 49.
Then Klaasen and David Miller forged 51 off 28 balls for the fifth wicket. There too Klaasen was the dominant partner, scoring 32 off 17 balls. Given the small target, those two stands were all South Africa needed.
This knock comes at a crucial juncture in Klaasen's career. Before Sunday, Klaasen last played international cricket at the 2021 T20 World Cup. Since then, he has been dropped from the ODI side, and earlier this year, he also lost his central contract. He wouldn't have played here either had Quinton de Kock not injured his wrist.
"It's a blessing from above that this innings came at this time for me in my career," Klaasen said after the game. "That puts me on the map ahead of international cricket. So hopefully this will just prolong my career a little bit longer."

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo