Cow Corner

Import Tahir could stop SA choking

Cow Corner

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Major
tournaments and a tag of being 'amongst the favourites' has not been a happy union for South Africa in recent years.

But the
marriage of Imran Tahir to his (Cow Corner presumes) lovely wife could be the
very thing which helps South Africa banish those ghosts.

If it had
been England who were on the receiving end of the '22 runs from one ball' incident of 1992, we'd still be grumbling about it now.

The South
Africans bore that on their shoulders, and then were saddled with the additional World Cup heartache
of losing the 1999 semi-final to Australia from a position of needing one run
from four balls to win.

And that's
to say nothing of the Duckworth-Lewis miscalculations in 2003 on home soil.

Coming into
the tournament, the Proteas have emerged into a major force in all aspects of the game.

Three of
the top 10-rated ODI batsmen are Saffers, including Hashim Amla and AB de
Villiers in the top two spots. And three of the bowlers make the top 10 for
good measure.

But for
subcontinental conditions South Africa have taken every precaution, worrying that once again that firepower on its own might still not be
enough.

So the
tenth-best bowler in the game, according to the official rankings, Lonwabo
Tsotsobe, found himself dropped to accommodate Tahir - who immediately proved
why.

The
leg-spinning debutant took four for 41 from ten overs, ripping out the heart of
the West Indies, who, through Darren 'it's too soon to compare him to Brian
Lara but doesn't he play an awful lot like him' Bravo were building a good
foundation.

He settled
into a rhythm while depriving the batsmen of theirs - bowling bewitching
leggies and surprising wrong 'uns, drawing the sting out of the innings in the
middle overs.

He will
have to take a fresh look at where he lands in his follow-through, admittedly - coming all
the way across the non-striker's stumps, he earned two warnings from the
umpires and another would have ended his afternoon prematurely.

Now, with
his talents allied to the off-spin of Johan Botha and the slow left-arm of
Robin Peterson, South Africa have a spin attack which has considerably more
teeth than Paul Harris rolling his fingers over the ball on a defensive leg-stump line.

And with
Dale Steyn (right) looking incisive and Morne Morkel hostile, the early signs are that
South Africa's attack is as sharp as it is balanced.

At 31, Tahir's
route to a South Africa shirt has been about as unorthodox as his leg-spin -
which features ample turn and a well-disguised googly - is orthodox.

Born in
Pakistan, he has travelled far and wide for a game of cricket, including
stints with four English counties and several years playing in South Africa, as
well as for a host of quite brilliantly-named Pakistani outfits.

Who, after
all, couldn't rouse themselves when representing the Water and Power Development
Authority?

South
Africa became his home when he married and citizenship followed.

Even then
the road to international cricket has been bumpy - he was first called up
during the Test series against England last winter - only for the selectors to
find, somewhat embarrassingly, that he wasn't eligible yet.

There are
no such doubts now, and Tahir has a career's worth of experience to call upon
as he finally tastes the international limelight.

With South
African fans having shaken their heads in frustration as the likes of Kevin
Pietersen and Jonathan Trott went on to play leading roles for England, perhaps
they will feel that the scales balance a little better now.

de Villiers
may have pipped him to the man of the man award for a coruscating century to
steer the chase into calm waters, but it is Tahir who may change South Africa
from nearly-men into World Cup winners.

+++++

We got a
glimpse of how relaxed South Africa were - and how focused they were on the
occasion - before the game, when the PA system cut their national anthem
halfway short.

Graeme
Smith grinned, and several others followed, while de Villiers led the team -
and their travelling support - through the rest of the song.

Once the
country's pride had been upheld, they went and did the same on the field.

+++++

SHOT OF THE DAY: The honour today goes to Darren Bravo (right), who might have earned more attention for his dashing
innings had the West Indian side not been so outclassed and his half-brother Dwayne Bravo succumbed to a worrying
knee injury. Any could have been picked, but one shot laced through the covers
brought back memories of BC Lara himself. To whom Bravo is vaguely related. But
to whom no comparisons must be made.

STAT OF THE DAY: In two innings, AB de Villiers has now
plundered 252 runs from 245 balls
against the West Indies in World Cups. Four years ago it was a match-winning
146, the latter part of which was almost on one leg. Not too much has changed.

TWEET OF THE DAY: "Is ordering sushi in India a good
idea, or will I be playing Bengalaru roulette? Perhaps if I line my stomach
with a Kit Kat..." Someone lock Graeme
Swann
in his room and make sure he eats nothing but baked beans on toast...

USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "The World cup of 2011 starts
tomorrow, all these one sided affairs are not doing the game any good." Jtppn may have said it about today's
game, but perhaps it will be more relative tomorrow...

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