“Klaasen, who was initiated into the ODI team in the series, did not even have tickets for the match and there he was, standing aloft with the Man of the Match trophy. Sports once again proved to a massive uncertain arena by making puppets of the strong and showcasing what a mind possessed with mental determination and focus can go on to achieve”.
It was more of an instance of South Africa shrugging off their ineptness at tackling the demonic caricatures that the Indian Cricket team had brought with it to the South Africa shores; in the form of their wily wrist-spinners than it was India’s inability to get under the African’s nerves in the Pink ODI at Johannesburg. Outdone and outfoxed by the duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, who had picked up 21 wickets in three ODIs, giving away just 190 runs amongst them, the South Africans, bogged by the return of AB de Villiers set foot in the Wanderer’s desperate to keep their heads afloat.
It is not every day that an opponent arrives to bamboozle the mighty Proteas. At the back of a 17-game unbeaten streak at home, it was highly anticipated that the Indians would struggle to make a mark in the tough conditions in the Rainbow Nation. But the story panning out till the 3rd game was quite different and unexpected.
They say that an individual’s real mettle is often unearthed in the most sombre of occasions, and surrounded by the wave of pink all around, two young players set foot to do just that. After India had opped their rampage at an achievable 289 in their quota of overs, the rain came petering down to hand South Africa a revised target of 202 to get in 28 overs. However, no rain and no lightning could delay the now-familiar story.
The top-order, led by Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, and JP Duminy set off to the pavilion after just slightly making their presence at the crease and with South Africa struggling at 77/3; Virat Kohli would have hoped that their go-to players, Kuldeep and Chahal would quickly sweep over the rest. But not when you have de Villiers in the side.
He swatted away Hardik Pandya, who kept bowling the shorter lengths to the destructive player. But just when one thought that he had spared Kuldeep and so would do a similar thing to Chahal, in came the sight of de Villiers on his knee as he slogged away a six over cow corner. The very next, he replied with a long hop and a massive swipe that gushed over to mid-wicket. But thankfully for Chahal, de Villiers was sent back soon after by Pandya and he would have been able to heave a sigh of relief.
With him clean-bowling David Miller in the eighteenth over, the joys in the Indian camp returned; only for it to be short-lived. He had overstepped and the fiery Miller was back in the crease, eager to mark his presence in the series. He, till now, had just earned a reputation for being a player that was all names and no show and today, desperate than ever, he wanted to overturn just that.
Along with newbie Heinrich Klaasen, he vindicated why he deserves a spot in the side and the fury had just been unleashed. Coming together with Klaasen, who had come into the side for injured Quinton de Kock, the duo stitched together a 72-run partnership in just 41 deliveries to push the Indians out of the game.
Miller swept the Indian spinners at will. He smashed Pandya for three consecutive boundaries in the nineteenth over. He took 15 of Chahal, who was meant to trouble him. He sent Kuldeep’s googly over the cow corner, into the distant land. He mocked Chahal again by rocking back into the crease and pulling off a huge six towards deep-wicket. He picked up 25 runs against them in 19 balls, taking his average against wrist spin to 37.
At the other end, Klaasen was in an even more bludgeoning mood. He had begun slowly, treading with just a couple of boundaries in his first thirteen deliveries, but once Chahal slipped to concede a no-ball, it awakened the beast within the Martin Guptill doppelganger.
A six in the free-hit. One that was effortlessly picked up under the length and was dispatched several rows into the stands. A four off Jasprit Bumrah and Yadav in quick successions virtually sealed the game from India’s grasp.
Yes, it was widely baffling why Kohli did not introduce Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar into the attack, even after seeing the opponents tear apart his reliable spinners. Aided by a wet ball, the slower bowlers hardly could prevent the Africans from unfurling, but more importantly, the triumph was just a victory of their self-belief.
Admittedly, the mood in the dugout belied hopes of confidence, but maybe all it needed was for them to attack the very woes that had set them on the back-foot throughout the series. When Andile Phehlukwayo smashed 23 in just five deliveries, it further reinforced the fact that on many days, your strengths can turn into a massive weakness.
Klaasen, who was initiated into the ODI team in the series, did not even have tickets for the match and there he was, standing aloft with the Man of the Match trophy. Sports once again, proved to a massive uncertain arena by making puppets of the strong and showcasing what a mind possessed with mental determination and focus can go on to achieve.
Adorned in pink, Miller and Klaasen did just that.