Heinrich Klaasen scored a career-best 44 as the Proteas chased down 118 to claim a five-wicket victory in the first ODI against Zimbabwe in Kimberley.
The Proteas’ decision to bowl first was one that could have received scrutiny, seeing that it’s the Proteas’ batting department that needs to be analysed and tested.
Based on Ottis Gibson’s statements that he wanted a chance to see what the likes of Christiaan Jonker, Heinrich Klaasen and Dean Elgar have to offer, the best way to do so would be for them to bat first – especially with the likelihood that the Proteas’ deadly bowling attack would skittle Zimbabwe out for a low total. The Proteas did exactly that and Zimbabwe were all out for 117.
The Proteas’ chase was expected to be simple but they got off to an awkward start.
Elgar opened the batting with Aiden Markram, but the 31-year-old found a leading edge after only scoring two for Tendai Chatara’s first wicket – the worst return for a batsman trying to prove his worth in the 50-over format after three years of absence.
Their woes deepened when the Proteas’ spin frailties were exposed once again, as Reeza Hendricks’ block was beaten by Wellington Masakadza’s spin – the Proteas 25-2 three balls into the seventh over.
Markram decided to play more aggressively, but his eagerness was almost his downfall when he edged Chatara with a cut-shot to the keeper, only for replays to show that the bowler overstepped the mark. Markram wasted his second life, however, driving a slower delivery from Chatara to mid-off, the 23-year-old out for 27 off 38 balls.
With the Proteas reduced to 40-3 after 10 overs, Gibson got his chance to see what his middle order was made of. The Proteas sent in Jonker on his debut and he joined Klaasen – both batsmen pushed up the order ahead of stand-in skipper JP Duminy.
Jonker struggled to find his rhythm. He failed to pick out the spin from Brandon Mavuta and hit him directly to mid-wicket as the Proteas were reduced to 58-4.
Klaasen turned up the heat, pulling consecutive sixes over deep mid wicket at the start of the 22nd over to take himself to his personal best score of 44. Closing in on a maiden half-century, he aimed to repeat the same pull-shot that found him success throughout the match but instead he found the newly placed fielder at long-on.
Wiaan Mulder (14) and Duminy (16) took the Proteas home as they sealed a five-wicket victory with 143 balls remaining.
Hamilton Masakadza (25), Elton Chigumbura (27); Lungi Ngidi (3-19), Imran Tahir (2-23), Andile Phehlukwayo (2-22).
South Africa 119-5
Heinrich Klaasen (44), Aiden Markram (27); Tendai Chatara (2-12), Wellington Masakadza (2-26)
Photo: Wikus De Wet/AFP/Getty Images