How Ottneil Baartman has emerged as South Africa’s man for pressure moments at the T20 World Cup | Cricket News

With a long hory of floundering finishes, South Africa had been looking for a cricketer to nail a very specific skill – winning at the crunch.None of their wins against Netherlands, Bangladesh or Nepal at this T20 World Cup have been remotely impressive. But their death-overs special, Ottneil Baartman, has ensured they don’t suddenly turn skittish like they habitually do in clutch moments, and then get swallowed whole all and sundry. Nepal very nearly did them in over the weekend, before Baartman held his nerve.
The right-arm quick, who started off his World Cup journey with a wicket off his first-ever delivery against Sri Lanka, and conceded the fewest runs from his first three T20 matches (just 47), went wicketless against Nepal. But it was his crucial ability to conjure dot-balls at will to smother batting intents, that has consently helped the Proteas defend low totals on the American swing with its miserly scores.
Baartman once bowled 16 dot balls out of 21 (3.3 overs) for Sunrisers Eastern Cape against Pretoria Capitals in the SA20, and is a hero of sorts at St George’s Park while guarding scores. But he had never played outside of South Africa prior to being picked for this World Cup.
Defending 115, South Africa had wound up needing to guard 8 in the last over, despite Tabraiz Shamsi leashing the Rhinos with 4 wickets. Sompal Kami had smote Anrich Nortje for a six in the 19th, and on strike was Gulshan Jha at the start of the 20th. Keeping Kami away from the strike was necessary.
Baartman zipped in a good length and then a wide yorker next delivery for a second dot, before Jha pinched a 4 and double off the next two. Baartman teased one short, tugging it away from Jha as it swayed just out of reach of his uppercut for a strangling dot ball on 19.5. Though the ensuing run-out and 1 run-heartbreak for Nepal made the headlines, it was that calm control of Baartman in bowling the final delivery short and on an unsmackabe off line denying the batsman any connection, that saw Nepal deflate.

#HeinrichKlaasen’s act on the last ball meant Nepal’s heroic performance went in vain! 🥲
Watch South Africa in action next in 👉 #USAvSA in #Super8 | WED, JUN 19, 6 PM | #T20WorldCupOnStar
— Star Sports (@StarSportsIndia) June 15, 2024
It wasn’t a convincing win any stretch for the South Africans, but finishing on the winning side of a 1-run margin can be particularly elusive for the Proteas, and they had Baartman to thank for getting the job done. It’s what he does.
SA legend Dale Steyn, who’s copped his fair share of Protean heartbreaks, had pretty early on pinned hopes on the 31-year-old. Steyn was quoted as saying, “He reminds me a lot of Mohammed Shami where his seam comes down, he’s got a great wr and his lines are perfectly straight, so very rarely does he bowl a short wide-cut ball, or a ball which goes down leg. Something similar to Anriche Nortje, his lines are gun barrel straight and his seam is really good. He comes with little problems, he’s easy to coach and it’s easy for him to kind of zone in on a particular area which is important when you’re playing at the highest level.”
His game really blossomed at Sunrisers East Cape with coach Adi Birrell who reckoned the time to blood him in T20s was perfect. He told ESPNCricinfo, “His alignment was very good. He runs in straight, follows through straight, and not much can go wrong with his technique…This is his time. He is at the top of his game. Too often, not only South Africa but teams in general go for the young guys with potential, instead of picking the guy who is at the absolute peak of his powers. You need to win the trophy now, and so right now you need people that are in form.”
SA coach Rob Walter had duly found his death bowling quality irresible. Bracketed as a Test special after he picked 14 wickets in a first-class game for South Western Dricts and even included for a longer format series which he missed due to injury, Baartman had put in effort to change that constricting perception. Birrell and Sunrisers captain Markram did the rest in slotting him for the precise role. “He looks for the tough overs. And we trusted him with the big overs: at the back end of the Powerplay and the death,” the coach had said.
Unusual beginnings
In 2021, Baartman won the inaugural Makhaya Ntini Power of Cricket award, given to one who “demonstrates the ability for this game to change lives and communities”, just as it did for the Proteas bowling legend. Baartman arrived in franchise cricket from the absolute peripherals of a sporting outpost Oudtshoorn, a sleepy town in West Cape province.
Unlike most Proteas, Baartman didn’t go to a fancy private school. His yorkers – and equally the quick reflex caught and bowleds after he cramps toes – aren’t his only takeaways from street-cricket upbringing. Like most from remote dusty towns, Baartman was asked to focus on studies, and let go off private schooling where privileged cricket thrives.
His mother Maria Baartman, who raised him single-handedly, was pivotal. “She was my hero when I was young because my father wasn’t part of my life at that stage. She’s the one who raised me and she’s the one who was always there. When I was stressed and worried, she was the one who calmed me down,” he told
Perhaps the Saffers needed a player whose cricketing pathway wasn’t neatly paved on well-manicured private fields, with resources available at every step. Maybe they needed someone who worked out solutions himself, grew a canny streetsmart brain on his own, to bowl the tough overs with composure.
Baartman’s 20th over – W 0 W 1 0 W – helped Proteas halt their losing streak in white ball cricket against Netherlands, as he drew comparisons to Kyle Abbott’s death over smarts. Ottneil Baartman isn’t your typical South African cricketer, and just as well, for he knows to hold his nerve.

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