Proteas batters delighted to leave New York behind

11 June 2024 - 10:36
By Stuart Hess
David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen's partnership of 79 proved crucial for the Proteas in their narrow victory over Bangladesh on Monday.
Image: Richard Huggard/Gallo Images David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen's partnership of 79 proved crucial for the Proteas in their narrow victory over Bangladesh on Monday.

“I think all the batters are keen to get out of this place,” Heinrich Klaasen remarked after South Africa’s nail-biting four-run T20 World Cup victory against Bangladesh on Monday. 

New York has been fun, more so for the seam bowlers, but the Nassau County International Stadium — with its drop-in pitches, which haven’t had enough time to properly set, and sandy outfield — is really not fit for top level cricket. 

However, South Africa no longer have to think about that. They went to the Big Apple to play three matches and they won all three, having to adapt to conditions that were bowler-friendly. The egos and statistics of the top order batters will have taken a hit, but the Caribbean will hopefully provide surfaces more suited to them.

“Our mindset [was] not even close to T20 cricket,” Klaasen said of the strategy adopted by the Proteas batters.

“David [Miller] showed us in the previous game how to bat on this wicket and it's almost a similar way to how we bat in a one-day game.”

“You just want to get in and find a way to bat at a run a ball. When we know you're one or two hits away from going over the run a ball strike rate.” 

Never mind ODIs, at 24/4 against Bangladesh, Klaasen and Miller had to play like they were in a Test match. The new ball was getting plenty of assistance off the seam and Klaasen admitted his technique had to be tighter. 

“You want to hit the ball hard and out of the inner ring because the ball doesn't really ping off the bat or out of the outfield. You have to hit the ball nice and hard so that element stays, but your technique becomes a little tighter. You can't only be using your hands and swinging across the line,” he said.

Quinton de Kock was bowled swinging across the line for 18, but Klaasen explained the opener felt being aggressive against the new ball was the better option than purely looking to survive.

“That was his game plan for the previous game as well, to go extremely hard in the power play because it's already difficult to get the ball out of the inner ring so it's better to hit it up in the air and find some space in the outfield.”

With Klaasen, who made 46, and Miller (29) adding 79 for the fifth wicket, South Africa reached 113, a reasonable total given the surface but one Klaasen felt was 10 runs too few. 

As it was, Keshav Maharaj was left to defend 11 runs in the final over.

I knew from the 16th over that it would be me, so I was zoned in to find clarity
Keshav Maharaj

“I was more nervous in the penultimate over as I was going through my processes and plans. I was more calm in that last over, I trusted the execution and it worked out for me,” Maharaj said.

Bowling the yorker was the primary strategy for Maharaj, along with using the stiff breeze that was at his back and that he hoped would hold the ball up should Bangladesh’s batters hit it in the air. Half of the plan worked.

“The breeze behind me is probably what made that ball go fuller,” Maharaj said of the delivery that dismissed Bangladesh’s last recognised batter, Mahmadullah.

“The breeze held it up nicely and fortunately it was a good catch under pressure by Aiden [Markram].” 

It was the first time Maharaj had bowled the 20th over in a T20 match.

“I knew from the 16th over it would be me, so I was zoned in to find clarity.” 

The path to the Super Eights is clear too. The Proteas need to beat Nepal in St Vincent (Saturday 1.30am SA time), where the batters will be desperate for easier conditions than they found on Long Island.