For a nation that has never won the 50-over World Cup despite producing some of the best players and teams, South Africa look determined to go the distance in this edition, shedding the ‘chokers’ tag. With one 400-plus and another near-400 total to their credit and a massive 229-run win over reigning champions England, South Africa have made a strong statement ahead of the fixtures against New Zealand and India.
Heinrich Klaasen, who smashed a 67-ball 109 against England, viewed those two matches as a perfect occasion for his side to deliver in a high-pressure situation, often termed the Achilles Heel of South African teams.
“Our World Cup performances, everyone, obviously, has got their tag over us but we have played some good cricket. We’ve been unlucky, and obviously, we did not execute on certain games,” Klaasen told the media here on Saturday.
“But if you look at our games that we have played, we have played some very, very good cricket in the World Cup (history). It is not a surprise that we are playing good cricket.”
“This group has been playing good cricket for the last three years now. We’ve been maturing nicely. It is our time to really try to make a big statement for the world, that South Africans are very good under pressure. We have done it before,” Klaasen said.
The wicketkeeper-batter, who struck his third hundred of the year, described the conditions in Mumbai as excruciating.
Klaasen cracked 12 fours and four sixes during his innings, and the effort under the sweltering heat and humidity in the city has left him a drained man.
“It ranks up to one of my better hundreds purely on the conditions that were out there. I really had to dig deep mentally. Physically, I was not in a good space, but mentally I had to dig very deep there,” Klaasen said.
“It is like just breathing in hot air and every time you try to run it is just sapping more and more energy and then at the end of the day, your body just does not want to work with you anymore,” he said.
“It is like almost running in a sauna for the whole innings, which is what we obviously prepare for and we are used to these conditions. But it still takes a lot out of the body,” he added.
Klaasen revealed the warning Marco Jansen, his partner for England demolition job, served when they met in the middle.
Klaasen and Jansen hammered 151 runs for the sixth wicket — a record for South Africa.
“Marco has been working extremely hard on his batting and he is taking a lot of pride in his death hitting as well. He has been disappointed in a couple of the innings that he did not really pull through,” the 32-year-old said.
Klaasen added, “He told me that he has got me and that I am not allowed to walk off the field if I don’t score 100. I told him, but I can’t run and he said, it’s fine, just give me 100 per cent every time you face the ball,” Klaasen said.
The Transvaal man was also full of praise for Reeza Hendricks, who made a huge impact on the game by scoring 85 at the top order.
Hendricks was a last-minute replacement for South Africa captain Temba Bavuma who fell ill.
“Reeza got a late call, I think it was about 10 minutes before, 5 minutes before the coin toss that Temba is down. And to perform like that, and the couple of the shots that he played under pressure shows where we are as a South African cricket group,” Klaasen said.
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