Cape Town - Former Proteas skipper Graeme Smith believes Imran Tahir is the country's "greatest asset" in One-Day International (ODI) cricket.
Tahir stole the show in the Proteas 96-run victory against Sri Lanka in their ICC Champions Trophy opening match at The Oval on Saturday.
The Proteas leg-spinner took 4/27 off his 8.3 overs and was also involved in the run-out of Sri Lankan bowler Suranga Lakmal.
Tahir's man-of-the-match performance stood out despite team-mate Hashim Amla's record breaking 25th ODI ton.
Smith, who is commentating at the Champions Trophy, hailed the 34-year-old as the "best limited overs spinner in the world".
"I've spoken a lot about how key Imran Tahir is for South Africa, and I'd go as far to say that Imran is our greatest asset in ODI cricket," Smith wrote in his ICC column.
"He's performed so consistently, and is undoubtedly now the best short form spinner in the world.
"Against Sri Lanka, he bowled skillfully to both right and left-handers and he bowls so few bad balls. For AB (de Villiers), that means he can often afford an extra fielder in the inner circle, enabling the team to create more pressure by preventing singles."
De Villiers shared Smith's sentiments as he praised Tahir's performance in the post-match conference, saying that he is a "great asset" for the team.
"His performance was close to 10 out of 10," said De Villiers.
The Proteas travel to Edgbaston where they take on Pakistan in their second group fixture on Wednesday (14:30 SA time).
Read Graeme Smith's full ICC column