Marco Jansen, South Africa's Magnificent No. 7

Marco Jansen contributed useful runs lower down the order Getty Images

For someone who has taken 16 wickets - joint at second-highest - at the World Cup so far, Marco Jansen spends a lot of time talking instead about the runs he has scored.

"I just love batting. I enjoy batting a lot more than bowling," Jansen said to select media. "Whenever I bat, it gives me more joy. Bowling also gives me joy, but it's a bit more hard work. You can't always get away with everything and it's also not nice seeing the ball fly 80 or 90 metres if you don't put it where you want."

That's not the first time Jansen has expressed a preference for what he does at No. 7 in the line-up - where he has a license to play with freedom - over his role with the new ball, which he described as a "real job". Batting allows him to show what he can do, with almost no strings attached, but with ball in hand, "I am expected to take wickets". And so far, he has delivered.

In seven matches at the tournament to date, Jansen has taken more wickets than any other bowler in the powerplay - 12 at 13.08 - and has conceded at less than five runs to the over. The next most successful new-ball bowler is Dilshan Madushanka, with seven wickets at 19.43 in the powerplay. And Jansen and Madushanka are a distance away from anyone else: Josh Hazlewood, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami and Mohammed Siraj have five each at the end of Thursday's India vs Sri Lanka game.

Jansen's success has come through a combination of skill and strategy, with South Africa using him to open the bowling alongside Lungi Ngidi, asking him to hit hard lengths and making use of clever field placings to take advantage of any early nip. A leg slip is often in place, for the delivery that straightens on the right-hand batters, for example (and it worked to dismiss Joe Root in Mumbai). And Jansen's ability to bowl consistently and move the ball has impressed even the most experienced of his team-mates.

"He is hitting great lengths, he is swinging the ball both ways, and he has got a great bumper," Kagiso Rabada said after South Africa's last win, over New Zealand. "Normally, if you have that in your artillery and you execute it more often than you don't, you will be successful. He is just a natural bowler. He has got a natural action, he can swing it, he can nip it, he is gifted with a talent of just bowling and making it look natural."

Even though Jansen himself has had to do a lot of work to try and make it look that way, especially in the absence of significant swing, as has been the case in many parts of India.

"Previously, I was focusing a lot on something that was not always going to be there [swing]," he said. "Now, I constantly try and hit the wicket hard and through that get some purchase in the wicket so I've been focusing on hitting the wicket with a bit more energy. What happens after that is out of my control - if it nips or if it swings. The focus is just to get the most out of the wicket that we are playing on."

According to ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball data, 57% of the 359 balls (including wides and no-balls) Jansen has bowled at the World Cup so far have been either on a length or short of a good length, on or outside off stump. He has used the short ball only 36 times of the time and taken four wickets which translates to 10% of his deliveries accounting for a quarter of his wickets, which also illustrates his selective and successful use of the bouncer, which Rabada explained makes him the complete package at a young age. "When he is on top of his game, this is what you can expect to see, whether he is a rookie or not."

Jansen had only played 14 ODIs over 20 months before being named in the World Cup squad, but also had 11 Tests to his name, which Rabada thinks has aided his transition to the format.

And there's one other thing: "And he is bowling it from 18 metres above the ground so that also helps," as Rabada said.

Not quite 18 metres, but close enough.

At 2.06 metres, Jansen is among the tallest players at the tournament and the knowledge that he can use that to aim for the ribcage, the throat, or even the helmet is likely always on batters' minds. That he doesn't overly rely on the short ball (something South African bowlers in the past may have been guilty of) is the result of close attention to detail in training under the guidance of bowling coach Eric Simons, who is on a short-term deal for this World Cup.

"Eric is very specific in terms of where we want to hit - in terms of the length, the stumps, the lines - which is a very good thing because before I was just warming up for the sake of warming up to get my body loose. Now, it's about actually focusing on a target and subconsciously working on something. In my case, it's hitting off stump or middle stump," Jansen said. "For example, in some warm-ups, I will try and hit off stump every single ball and through that you are building your action in a way to get the ball where you want it to go. Then, When the pressure is on, subconsciously you do it."

Is there anything similar about the way he trains clearing the ropes with the bat? It doesn't seem so. "In the nets, when I am working on my batting, I enjoy it," he said, and perhaps the more relaxed approach is paying off.

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While there are still times when South Africa's line-up can look a little short - and those are the times when the top order wobbles - and the balance of their side can seem off, Jansen has shown signs that he is growing into his role at the top of the lower order. His unbeaten 75 off 42 balls and 151-run seventh-wicket stand with Heinrich Klaasen against England strengthened his claim on the genuine-allrounder front, but he is careful to not say the spot is permanently his.

"I don't own anything but I try to earn it," he said. "I have to give credit to the coaches helping us and the players working hard behind the scenes. I wouldn't say I deserve it but I try to go out and always show I am doing my best."

That is a sentiment that is running strongly through the South Africa outfit at this World Cup: nothing is about the individual, everything for the collective, which sounds overly sentimental but is relevant for a squad that fell apart at the last tournament. "In the 2019 World Cup, we weren't quite gelling as a team. We weren't stringing together performances as a team," Rabada, who played at that tournament, said. "Now everyone is on the same page and so you also want to be on it as an individual."

For South Africa's bowlers that means backing up what their top six, or seven including Jansen, have been able to do. "When the batters put up big totals, it means we have runs to defend but we almost make it irrelevant what they have scored," Rabada said. "We are focusing on our own targets and setting our own standards, whether we bowl first or whether we are defending a total."

With all that said, bring on India. "It's going to be a great match," Rabada said. "India are a phenomenal team but we are up for it."