Terrific Tahir delivers for the Proteas again
FOR all the current fuss surrounding cricketers leaving South African shores to pursue Kolpak careers in County cricket, and heaven forbid even go on to qualify for England, it is easy to forget that the Proteas have been the major benefactors of a player trading his country of birth for the green and gold.
He is, of course, Imran Tahir, who qualified to represent the Proteas ahead of the 2011 World Cup by virtue of marriage to his Durban-born wife Sumaya. And how South Africa have been grateful for the charismatic leg-spinner’s presence, especially in limited-overs cricket, ever since.
Since making his ODI debut against the West Indies in Delhi at the 2011 showpiece, Tahir has been sensational in claiming 114 wickets in 65 matches at average of 23.05. Among those 114 wickets is a haul of 7/45, which is a South African record in ODI cricket.
Add in his 49 T20 International scalps at average of 14.61, which ranks him at the summit of the ICC T20 bowlers list, and there is a strong case to be made that the former Pakistani should be in line for a Presidential Sports Award for services to his adopted country.
Tahir, was at his best again in the first ODI at St George’s Park on Saturday. Despite the blustery conditions, he managed to maintain his line and length without losing any of his attacking instincts. Tahir claimed 3/26, which cut the legs off the Sri Lankan innings as the visitors were ultimately scuttled for a disappointing 181 that allowed South Africa’s batsmen to coast home by eight wickets.
“It was tough, hard to bowl with the wind and against the wind, but our captain used us very well. I don’t think I played in conditions like that in a long time,” Tahir said.
“I just call it hard work and I take it very seriously. I don’t feel like I am relaxed. I play it as my last game because playing for such a good team you must keep performing.”
Tahir’s performance was even more impressive considering he was bowling at players who are reared on a diet of leg-spinners, googlies, top-spinners, doosras and all sorts of mystique deliveries. But that arguably is the key to Tahir’s success in that he raises his game when playing against quality opposition through simplification of his gameplan.
It was his stock delivery – the googly – that clean bowled Dinesh Chandimal while the flatter, quicker delivery had the undoing of a well-set Kusal Mendis. He simply floated one outside the off stump of Sri Lankan skipper Upul Tharanga, who could not resist an aerial cover drive that went straight to JP Duminy at short cover.
“Immy is probably in the best form I have seen him right now,” Proteas captain AB de Villiers enthused about his match-winner.
“He always used to take wickets, but he just doesn’t bowl bad balls, which makes him really difficult to play. It’s one thing that he picks up wickets, but at the moment he’s keeping the runs down as well.”