Cape Town – He may have played a lot fewer
matches than most, but Imran Tahir only stiffens his claims statistically to be
considered one of the most effective Twenty20 spinners in the format’s relatively
Tahir was on song again on Sunday as South
Africa pulverised England in the second KFC T20 international at the Wanderers
for a 2-0 mini-series sweep, and ended as the joint-highest wicket-taker across
the two sides with five, alongside compatriot Kyle Abbott.
But Tahir’s average (9.20) and economy rate
(5.75) were superior and he landed the player-of-the-series award, helped by
his career best-equalling haul of 4/21 at Newlands on Friday.
The exuberant character has now claimed 32
scalps in just 20 T20 internationals and is only six shy of eclipsing Johan
Botha – primarily based in Australia these days – as South Africa’s leading
wicket-taking spinner in the arena.
Botha achieved his 37 wickets in exactly
double (40) the number of games Tahir has played for the Proteas, which gives
you an idea of just how prolific the latter is in dismissals terms.
Whereas off-spinner Botha, albeit a
trustier contributor with the bat and in the field, averages 22.24 and sports a
strike rate of 20.9, Tahir’s average is 14.75 and the leg-spinner strikes at
13.8. Their economy rates are currently absolutely identical at 6.37.
But Tahir is also right up there with the
very finest T20 “tweakers” across the world, based on figures.
For instance, veteran Pakistani googly
exponent Shahid Afridi is the top wicket-taker in T20 international history for
all forms of bowlers with 91 from a massive 90 appearances since 2006, but
Tahir cleans him up for both average (Afridi’s is 23.90) and strike rate
Here are the statistics for the next four
highest T20 wicket-takers among spinners:
Ajmal (Pakistan, 64 matches): 85 wickets at 17.83;
economy 6.36, strike rate 16.8
Mendis (Sri Lanka, 39 matches): 66 wickets at
14.42; economy 6.45, strike rate 13.4
McCullum (NZ, 61 matches): 55 wickets at 22.85;
economy 6.90, strike rate 19.8
Swann (Eng, 39 matches): 51 wickets at 16.84;
economy 6.36, strike rate 15.8.
Lahore-born Tahir is obviously done no
favours either for volume of appearances or wickets taken by the fact that he
only qualified for South Africa at the end of 2010, and although he made both
Test and ODI debuts in 2011, was only capped for the first time at T20 level in
How Tahir, 36, would compare with any of
the others listed above in the scalps column if he had been able to represent
the Proteas several years earlier can only be imagined, sadly, although the
stats clearly show he is right up among any of them for effectiveness in the
game’s shortest landscape.
What the longer-term future is for Tahir in
South Africa’s limited-overs plans – he has probably already finished his Test
career – remains unclear after the looming ICC World Twenty20, although he may
take some heart from the fact that someone like Australia’s left-arm spinner
Brad Hogg was still playing T20 internationals at the ripe old age of 43.
Certainly at the moment, Tahir is pretty
close to an undroppable element of the SA arsenal with his almost unfailing
ability to strike in the key middle overs of an innings ...
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