Pakistan v SA

Now can Tahir do it in SA?

2013-11-07 18:00
AB de Villiers and Imran Tahir (AFP)
Cape Town - The hastily-arranged limited-overs series against Pakistan back in South Africa shortly should serve at least one very useful purpose, even if these foes doing battle yet again threatens to have become a slightly tired concept by then.

It gives the Proteas the timely opportunity, ahead of the visit by World Cup champions and still comfortably ODI No 1-ranked India, to gauge whether leg-spinner Imran Tahir can be as effective a one-day factor at international level on our soil as he has been in Subcontinent conditions.

Cricket South Africa revealed a few days ago that Pakistan would help fill up the Proteas’ home summer, left in tatters by the severe shortening of the Indian trip, by playing three ODIs as well as two Twenty20 internationals later this month.

Tahir has been something of a revelation in the ongoing series against the Pakistanis in the United Arab Emirates, having been a key figure in South Africa’s march to a 2-1 lead with two matches left on Friday (Abu Dhabi again) and Monday (Sharjah).

He jointly leads the wicket-taking department in the series, having grabbed eight scalps which places himself alongside Pakistan’s own spin whizzes Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi after three contests on the dry and often gripping Emirates pitches.

The leggie, who is happy to also bowl plenty of sliders and wrong ‘uns and has been varying his pace and flight nicely as well, mowed down the Pakistani middle order in Wednesday’s third ODI, en route to figures of 10-1-53-4, even if the collective South African bowling effort was excellent again.

The 34-year-old has clearly regained much of his old perkiness and confidence, after that horrendous Test match in Adelaide a year ago where he returned 0/260.

Broadly speaking, this Emirates venture has been seriously productive for him so far, considering that he first replaced the labouring Robin Peterson for the second of the two Test matches, and promptly landed a harvest of 8/130 in the series-squaring clash in Dubai.

The left-arm spinner had been pretty much part of the Proteas’ ODI furniture for several years, but is yet to feature in this ODI series, such has been Tahir’s impact thus far.

Whatever happens over the remaining course of this series in the UAE, the South African brains trust are sure to want to see in a couple of weeks whether he can do the business against the same opponents on often truer, less turning domestic surfaces where success in the wickets column may be a little harder to come by.

For the time being, Tahir’s reputation on the ODI front only swells: after eight appearances for the Proteas in this arena now, he has snared 22 wickets at a glowing average of 12.54 and perfectly decent economy rate of 3.97 even if he still throws in the odd rank full toss or long hop.

The Lahore-born player boasts four-wicket hauls three times already, and three-wicket ones twice, and is yet to go personally wicket-less in an ODI.

It is a deceptive record, some might wish to argue, because all of these games have come outside South Africa – and also all on Subcontinental strips, either at the 2011 World Cup in India or Bangladesh and more recently the UAE.

You are not comparing apples too directly with apples when you measure Tahir’s still relatively infant ODI stats against the seasoned Peterson’s.

The last-named player has had to operate on a far more widespread array of different surfaces around the world, in amassing a personal total of 76 caps, but his figures are also certainly well less striking to Tahir’s on paper – 70 poles at 36.78 and economy of 4.88.

But keep in mind also that Peterson offers a much broader cricketing package, given his way superior ability with the blade and sprightlier fielding into the bargain.

What Tahir has undoubtedly done of late, however, is give the Proteas’ vital extra strike oomph via the specialist spin berth: in the days of Peterson and also Johan Botha the SA spinners have largely been tasked with (or at least been reasonably effective at) keeping a lid on the run rate more than anything.

The fact remains, though, that Tahir has all the body language presently of a player who desperately wants the ball in his hand, and to be constantly sparking appeals and television reviews through his wiles.

For interests’s sake, here are all the animated character’s ODI bowling performances, from most recent:

10-1-53-4 v Pakistan, Abu Dhabi
10-1-28-1 v Pakistan, Dubai
10-1-45-3 v Pakistan, Sharjah
9-0-32-2 v New Zealand, Dhaka (CWC 2011)
5-0-20-1 v Bangladesh, Dhaka (CWC 2011)
8.4-1-38-4 v England, Chennai (CWC 2011)
6.5-0-19-3 v Netherlands, Mohali (CWC 2011)
10-1-41-4 v West Indies, Delhi (CWC 2011)

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  imran tahir  |  cape town  |  cricket

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