The men drafted into the Protea squad to take on England
Surprise as Tahir is included in South Africa squad
FACING the prospect of a series loss against England, the national selectors named an extended 15-man squad for the fourth Test starting at the Wanderers on Thursday that includes young left-arm seamer Wayne Parnell and more surprisingly leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
With growing concerns over the fitness of Friedel de Wet, who injured his back early on in England’s first innings, Parnell’s inclusion is no shock,
Tahir’s is. Mickey Arthur has long been an admirer of Pakistan-bor n leg-spinner, who gained residency last April after marrying a South African woman in Pretoria.
The national coach has long felt that the South African Test side needs a more attacking spinner, and in the immediate aftermath of the second agonising draw in this series, and Paul Harris’s lack of penetration on the final day at Newlands when the pitch was assisting spin, Tahir’s inclusion in the squad has added significance.
However it remains to be seen whether South Africa will be bold enough to pick him in the starting XI. It may just be that with tours to India and the West Indies later this year, Arthur wants to have Tahir around the squad and see how reacts to the national environ- ment. Tahir has apparently fallen out with the administration at the Titans franchise, and is understood to be seeking a move to the KZN Dolphins next season. This season he has played just two SuperSport Series matches for the Titans in which he claimed seven wickets at an undistinguished average of 63.00, but in the three-day domestic amateur provincial competition he is the leading wicket-taker with 35 at an average of 15.45.
Tahir has previously played for three different English County sides, and in his last stint on the county circuit was among Hampshire’s stars finishing with 44 wickets from just seven matches in which time he claimed three “five-fors.’’
There’s every chance of course that he may not come into the equation at all if the Wanderers pitch is going to be a quick and bouncy fast bowling paradise. There’s been a lot of rain around Johannesburg lately and more is forecast in the coming days which may force groundsman Chris Scott to prepare the pitch under a tent, a move that always tends to leave the surface a little juicier.
Smith mentioned that the Wanderers’ surface had been something of a lottery for his side in recent seasons but at least there’d always been a result. That result however has not always gone South Africa’s way with the home team managing just two wins in their last six Tests there both of which came against New Zealand.
The inclusion of Parnell may see South Africa use an all-seam attack for the ‘Bullring’.
“This is a must win Test for us,” commented selection convener Mike Procter, “and we have covered all our bases as far as the composition of our attack is concerned.”
If Tahir is not an option for the starting XI and the wicket shows that it may be one where fast bowlers will prosper there’s always the option of including Ryan McLaren for Harris and getting JP Duminy to do more bowling which may not be such a bad call given his success on the final day at Newlands.
For now it appears the top six will remain the same despite continuing concerns over Ashwell Prince’s lack of runs at the top of the order.
He has scored just 78 runs at an average of 13 in the current series, with a best of 45 a retur n which has put enormous pressure on the rest of the order especially Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis.
Smith though reckons Prince’s toughness and experience makes him a key member of the squad and he will receive all the support he needs ahead of the Wanderers Test.
“He’s a strong character and an integral part of the group, and I would back him to come through,” said Smith.
IMRAN TAHIR… long been admired by Mickey Arthur.
RYAN McLAREN… could come in for Paul Harris.
ALVIRO PETERSEN… putting pressure on Ashwell Prince.
WAYNE PARNELL… could bolster the pace attack.