South Africa have been through a few awkward middle-order options over the years, but can certainly settle on Kyle Verreynne and Heinrich Klaasen for the foreseeable future.
From Khaya Zondo, Christiaan Jonker and – to a lesser extent Aiden Markram – the ODI middle order has been lumped with limited choices over the past 18 months. Granted, the pool was increasingly widened to find partners for Faf du Plessis and David Miller as the retirement of Hashim Amla and JP Duminy neared. But Zondo, Jonker and others never screamed long-term stays. Much like Pite van Biljon in T20I cricket recently, a couple of series was always going to be their lot. They didn’t perform fantastically, and so ended a couple of brief ODI careers.
Now, with Duminy retired, Du Plessis in the twilight of a lengthy ODI career and the pressure of World Cup preparation at least two years away, Klaasen and Verreynne have the freedom to bed in alongside Rassie van der Dussen and the rest of the middle order.
Verreynne batted with tremendous temperament on debut at Boland Park, while Klaasen followed up a maiden ODI ton at the same venue with a complementary half-century in Bloemfontein. Uninhibited by the country’s pecking order of wicketkeeper-batsmen, both performed superbly as specialist middle-order maestros. Long may this success continue, even if captain Quinton de Kock eventually relinquishes the wicketkeeping duties to one or the other.
Janneman Malan, meanwhile, showcased characteristic composure to bounce back from a first-ball duck on ODI debut to record a maiden ton in international cricket on Wednesday. His lack of selection for this month’s tour of India is a pity for continuity’s sake, but perhaps just as well for an opening batsman who prefers pace on the ball rather than the sluggish conditions encountered in Kolkata, Dharamsala and Lucknow.
Jon-Jon Smuts continues to find favour from the selectors ahead of Reeza Hendricks. The patience he displayed at the Mangaung Oval exemplified motivation and intent. At 31 years old and on the wrong end of fitness test results on occasion, Smuts realises second or third chances won’t be offered when Temba Bavuma returns from injury.
David Miller, meanwhile, has been inspired by Klaasen and Malan. Slack and inconsistent in an order that boasted the experience of Duminy and Du Plessis, Miller has had to rekindle the attributes of a senior player alongside the inexperienced new caps. This role – rather than all-too familiar criticism – certainly suits Miller.
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