Klaasen nudges ahead in World Cup race

Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo)
Heinrich Klaasen (Gallo)

Cape Town – The competition for places at next year's Cricket World Cup in England is intensifying every time the Proteas take to the field.

The players know it, the coach knows it and so do the spectators. Between now and May, next year, the brains trust must settle on a squad of 15 and a best 11. 

It makes even a seemingly low-key series against Zimbabwe crucially important for several players. 

With Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and David Miller all out of the three-match series for different reasons, opportunities are being given in the top and middle order. 

In Kimberley on Sunday, most of those batsmen on the fringes of selection missed out on a wicket that made scoring difficult. 

Dean Elgar (2), Aiden Markram (27) and Reeza Hendricks (5) didn’t do their World Cup chances any good, and while it is still early in the greater context of this summer and the months ahead, every chance counts. 

The Proteas made heavy work of chasing down the 118 runs they needed for victory on Sunday, with the dismissals of the three above-mentioned players leaving the hosts at 40/3. 

In the end, the South Africans got over the line comfortably for a five-wicket win and that was largely down to a run-a-ball knock of 44 from Heinrich Klaasen

It was the highest score of Klaasen's ODI career, which is now just seven games old, but he showed a maturity that suggests there is much more to come. 

Where others struggled, Klaasen defended with intent and waited for anything slightly overpitched or short, with his ability to put away the bad balls impressive. 

With AB de Villiers not in the mix for the World Cup, the Proteas middle order needs somebody to stand up. 

And while Klaasen is currently performing the wicketkeeping duties in the absence of De Kock, he should be viewed as an out-and-out batsman when it comes to picking the best 11. 

There is a long way to go and Klaasen will have to do a lot more to command his place in the World Cup team, but after one laboured victory against the lowly Zimbabwe, he has pushed ever so slightly ahead of his competitors. 

"I'm still under pressure of securing a spot in this team so, for me, every game I play in I need to do well," Klaasen said after Sunday's win.

"If I get three opportunities now and I fail three times, that's my chance gone. I think it adds a bit more pressure on me, but I enjoy it."

The second ODI against Zimbabwe takes place in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.

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