Ter­rific Tahir de­liv­ers for the Proteas again

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ZAAHIER ADAMS

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.”

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