Heinrich Klaasen’s heroics give South Africa a 2-0 lead against India

With a career-best 81, comeback man Heinrich Klaasen joined Rassie Van der Dussen in becoming an unexpected hero. South Africa defeated India by four wickets on a challenging field to grab a 2-0 lead in the five-match T20I series on Sunday.

Klaasen made it seem deceptively simple in his 46-ball knock, smashing seven fours and five huge sixes to help his side chase down a target of 149 with 10 balls to spare on a two-paced track where other batters struggled.

The wicketkeeper-batsman, who came in as a late replacement for injured Quinton de Kock, hit his fourth T20I fifty in 32 balls before slamming three sixes off Yuzvendra Chahal to effectively end the pursuit.

Looking for a six, he was bowled by Harshal Patel, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar removed Wayne Parnell in the following over to complete with a brilliant 4-0-13-4.

But it wasn’t enough; they just needed three runs from the last two overs, and David Miller (20 not out) clinched the victory, giving the Proteas a 2-0 lead heading into the Vizag T20I on June 14.

The visitors are hoping to win their first bilateral T20 series in India.

After Bhuvneshwar pegged them back to 29/3 inside the powerplay overs, Klaasen never took his foot off the gas and hauled his team out of the woods after a seven-month absence.

Klaasen and captain Temba Bavuma (35) established a match-winning 64-run partnership from 41 balls before in-form David Miller joined him in the middle.

The Rishabh Pant-led India got off to a flying start, defending a modest 149 due to Bhuvneshwar’s triple blow in consecutive overs.

In his first over, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who appeared out of sorts in the Kotla T20I, quickly swung the ball back in to clean out Reeza Hendricks.

He then dismissed Dwaine Pretorius with a knuckleball before dismissing Rassie van der Dussen, who was in fine form (1).

Earlier, Indian hitters struggled to get going against South Africa’s tight bowling and were reduced to a paltry 148 for 6.

India’s best scorer was Shreyas Iyer (40), while Ishan Kishan (21-ball 34) offered some early sparks, but the hosts lost momentum in the middle overs due to difficult batting conditions.

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The fact that in-form finisher Dinesh Karthik was dropped to No. 7 behind Axar Patel made things much more challenging for Rishabh Pant’s India, who are down 0-1 in the series.

Karthik, the team’s chosen ‘finisher,’ hit two sixes and two fours to bring the score up to a respectable level (30 not out from 21 balls).

Harshal Patel (12 not out from nine balls) kept him company as the partnership boosted India’s run rate, putting together 36 runs in the final three overs to give them some breathing room.

Except for a short 45-run second-wicket stand between Kishan and Shreyas Iyer, the Indian batters struggled on a challenging track.

Kagiso Rabada, who bowled first, set the tone immediately with a breakthrough in his first over.

He masterfully set up Ruturaj Gaikwad (1) with a torrent of short balls before ingeniously deceiving the opening with a broader one on the way to a miserly period of 4-0-15-1 that featured 13 dot balls.

After a slow start, Kishan (34 from 21 balls) supplied the spark in the power play, hammering Nortje for two sixes to boost the team’s run rate.

Kishan used his pick-up shots in the square leg area to knock three sixes and two fours, fresh off his fiery fifty in the Kotla T20I.

Nortje won the fight against the small Mumbai Indians starter by pitching it short and giving speed, as the lefthander mistimed his hook this time to be caught at deep square leg, just as the partnership seemed to be settling in.