Cape Town – He may have played a lot fewermatches than most, but Imran Tahir only stiffens his claims statistically to beconsidered one of the most effective Twenty20 spinners in the format’s
Tahir was on song again on Sunday as SouthAfrica pulverised England in the second KFC T20 international at the Wanderersfor a 2-0 mini-series sweep, and ended as the joint-highest wicket-taker acrossthe 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 byhis career best-equalling haul of 4/21 at Newlands on Friday.
The exuberant character has now claimed 32scalps in just 20 T20 internationals and is only six shy of eclipsing JohanBotha – primarily based in Australia these days – as South Africa’s leadingwicket-taking spinner in the arena.
Botha achieved his 37 wickets in exactlydouble (40) the number of games Tahir has played for the Proteas, which givesyou an idea of just how prolific the latter is in dismissals terms.
Whereas off-spinner Botha, albeit atrustier contributor with the bat and in the field, averages 22.24 and sports astrike rate of 20.9, Tahir’s average is 14.75 and the leg-spinner strikes at13.8. Their economy rates are currently absolutely identical at 6.37.
But Tahir is also right up there with thevery finest T20 “tweakers” across the world, based on figures.
For instance, veteran Pakistani googlyexponent Shahid Afridi is the top wicket-taker in T20 international history forall forms of bowlers with 91 from a massive 90 appearances since 2006, butTahir cleans him up for both average (Afridi’s is 23.90) and strike rate(Afridi 21.7).
Here are the statistics for the next fourhighest T20 wicket-takers among spinners:
*SaeedAjmal (Pakistan, 64 matches): 85 wickets at 17.83;economy 6.36, strike rate 16.8
*AjanthaMendis (Sri Lanka, 39 matches): 66 wickets at14.42; economy 6.45, strike rate 13.4
*NathanMcCullum (NZ, 61 matches): 55 wickets at 22.85;economy 6.90, strike rate 19.8
*GraemeSwann (Eng, 39 matches): 51 wickets at 16.84;economy 6.36, strike rate 15.8.
Lahore-born Tahir is obviously done nofavours either for volume of appearances or wickets taken by the fact that heonly qualified for South Africa at the end of 2010, and although he made bothTest and ODI debuts in 2011, was only capped for the first time at T20 level inAugust 2013.
How Tahir, 36, would compare with any ofthe others listed above in the scalps column if he had been able to representthe Proteas several years earlier can only be imagined, sadly, although thestats clearly show he is right up among any of them for effectiveness in thegame’s shortest landscape.
What the longer-term future is for Tahir inSouth Africa’s limited-overs plans – he has probably already finished his Testcareer – remains unclear after the looming ICC World Twenty20, although he maytake some heart from the fact that someone like Australia’s left-arm spinnerBrad Hogg was still playing T20 internationals at the ripe old age of 43.
Certainly at the moment, Tahir is prettyclose to an undroppable element of the SA arsenal with his almost unfailingability to strike in the key middle overs of an innings ...
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