THE RUN­NING MAN

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - ODI MATCH STATS

MRAN Tahir is our great­est as­set in ODI cricket”, says former Proteas cap­tain Graeme Smith.

Writ­ing his lat­est col­umn for www.icc-cricket.com, Smith hailed the per­for­mance of Tahir after the World’s No 2-ranked ODI bowler claimed 4/27 off 8.3 overs to power South Africa to con­vinc­ing 96-run vic­tory over Sri Lanka in the Group B ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy opener at The Oval on Satur­day.

The Proteas had set the Sri Lankans 300 for vic­tory after Hashim Amla’s 103 and Faf du Plessis’ 79.

How­ever, the former cham­pi­ons raced to 90/1 after 10 overs be­fore Tahir’s in­tro­duc­tion into the at­tack. A bril­liant AB de Vil­liers run-out en­sued in the sec­ond ball of Tahir’s first over, be­fore the leg-spin­ner struck again two balls later.

The game just seems to speed up when Tahir comes into the game with ac­tion vir­tu­ally ev­ery ball.

“Im­ran is our great­est as­set in ODI cricket. He’s per­formed so con­sis­tently, and is un­doubt­edly now the best short-form spin­ner in the world. Against Sri Lanka, he bowled skil­fully to both right and left han­ders and he bowls so few bad balls,” Smith wrote.

“For AB, that means he can of­ten af­ford an ex­tra fielder in the in­ner cir­cle, en­abling the team to cre­ate more pres­sure by pre­vent­ing sin­gles.

The con­trol Tahir gives De Vil­liers and South Africa dur­ing those mid­dle overs are a sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially with op­pos­ing teams seem­ingly loathe pick­ing their leg-spin­ners at the mo­ment.

De­spite win­ning their first game against Bangladesh, Eng­land sur­pris­ingly left Adil Rashid out of their start­ing line-up. Rashid had played 41 out of Eng­land’s 44 ODI’s since the last World Cup in 2015.

Equally, Aus­tralia opted for an all-pace at­tack, with only Glenn Maxwell’s part-time off­spin the slow-bowl­ing op­tion, against New Zealand in their washed-out opener against New Zealand at Edg­bas­ton.

“It ap­pears to be a theme both in this tour­na­ment and in world cricket gen­er­ally, how­ever, that cap­tains are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly wary of pick­ing their spin­ners for one-day cricket,” Smith con­tin­ued.

“We saw Eoin Mor­gan choose to leave (Rashid) out of the side, hav­ing played him for a long pe­riod of time. Steve Smith also seems re­luc­tant to pick Adam Zampa, and I think there’s an is­sue with cap­tain’s un­der­stand­ing of how to al­low spin­ners to play an im­por­tant role and bring them in to the one-day game. It’s clear to me that South Africa has worked on spe­cific plans as a bowl­ing unit. That re­quires both in­tel­li­gent and brave lead­er­ship, as well as the bowlers to ex­e­cute those plans.”

Smith also had praise for Amla’s timely re­turn to form, but was par­tic­u­larly pleased with Du Plessis’ con­tri­bu­tion to the vic­tory.

“Faf is the key cog in the South African bat­ting line up. The way he goes about his game with such in­tent gives the in­nings mo­men­tum, and I thought he bat­ted beau­ti­fully in game one,” Smith ex­plained.

“Both he and Hash did well to assess the con­di­tions, in that up­ping the rate on that sur­face wasn’t par­tic­u­larly easy. What Faf did fan­tas­ti­cally was to take scor­ing pres­sure of Hashim and just al­low him to bat.”

The Proteas next out­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion is to­mor­row against Pak­istan. AND HE’S OFF: South Africa’s Im­ran Tahir cel­e­brates tak­ing the wicket of Sri Lanka’s Asela Gu­naratne in the Proteas open­ing match of the ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy this past week­end.

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