Marco Jansen continues to confound doubters in Proteas all-rounder role

22 October 2023 - 14:21
By Stuart Hess
Marco Jansen's is growth as an all-rounder is proving vital to the Proteas' World Cup hopes.
Image: Andrew Boyers/Reuters Marco Jansen's is growth as an all-rounder is proving vital to the Proteas' World Cup hopes.

While doubts persist about Marco Jansen’s status as an all-rounder, the 23-year-old simply keeps dishing out performances to diminish them. 

There were two innings of 32 in the series against Australia before the World Cup, one of which started in the 25th over of South Africa’s innings with their score on 100/5. There was a knock of 47 at the Wanderers, which until Saturday was his highest ODI score, against the Australians again, he scored 26 off 22 balls in Lucknow.

And then in the furnace that was the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, with the Proteas’ innings against England teetering, came a career-best 75 not out. 

Keep telling him he is batting too high and Jansen will keep showing it’s exactly where he belongs. 

At the same time as those exploits with the bat, he’s also taken 16 wickets, half of those in this World Cup, as the Proteas’ new ball bowler alongside Lungi Ngidi. Increasingly, the management’s faith in Jansen, known as “Plank” to his teammates, is shown to be warranted. 

On Saturday he provided a pick-me-up to the physically battered Heinrich Klaasen (109), as the pair set about punishing England during a match-changing 151-run sixth partnership on which South Africa's 399 total and huge 229-run victory were based.

“He told me he’s got me and that I am not allowed to walk off the field if I don’t score a hundred. I said I can't run, he said 'fine, just give me 100% every time you face a ball,'” Klaasen said.

When Jansen, too, decided to pull the trigger, Mumbai was treated to a glittering array of stroke play. 

There was a lofted cover drive off the back foot against fastest bowler Mark Wood and a flat-bat straight six off David Willey. When Gus Atkinson bowled a wide yorker, Jansen sliced the ball behind square for four; when he dropped it short he pulled it for six. 

There were half a dozen sixes in his innings along with three fours. 

“Marco has been working extremely hard on his batting and he's taken a lot of pride in his ‘death’ hitting too,” Klaasen said.

“He's been disappointed in a few of the innings where he didn't really pull through. So, I'm so chuffed and happy for him about the way he executed today.

“His intensity was a bit low when we started off but that wasn't an issue for us because we just needed to rebuild for four or five overs. I told him if we just hang on, we've got seven overs before breaking them.

“The way he struck the ball today, that's the best I've seen him hit a cricket ball in a very long time.”

It took the pressure off Klaasen, who like everyone else was struggling with the heat. Temperatures hit 36°C and, accompanied by 65% humidity, conditions were oppressive.

“It's like just breathing in hot air and every time you try to run it's just sapping more and more energy and then at the end of the day your body just doesn't want to work with you any more,” said Klaasen.

Understandably he didn’t field and watched from the air-conditioned changeroom as Jansen led the opening burst with the new ball that finally flattened England. Jansen took the wickets of Dawid Malan and Joe Root, starting a rout that saw England dismissed in the 22nd over.

While the defence of their title now hangs by a thread, South Africa, after their shock defeat to the Dutch, have notably restored their own self-belief.

“It was a big blow for us but it didn't mean that we're a bad team.

“We had one or two hard conversations as a group, but most of our chats after the Netherlands game have been positive and they were to keep reminding the boys to play aggressive and positive cricket,” Klaasen said.