TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
THE oldest player in South Africa’s squad hogged the headlines after their crushing win over New Zealand in a one-off T20 at eden Park in Auckland on Friday, but the youngsters also earned Faf du Plessis’ praise.
Imran Tahir, all 37 years of him, claimed a career-best 5/24 to help South Africa dismiss the Kiwis for 107 – which was 78 short of the visitors’ 185/6.
But the Kiwis had already slipped to 50/3 when Tahir came on to bowl in the ninth over.
Clearly, South Africa’s win was built on more than his bowling.
“I’ve got a really young bowling unit who are extremely eager to buy into whatever’s necessary on the day,” Faf du Plessis told reporters in Auckland.
“They’re so fresh: they pretty much go with whatever’s required.”
Chris Morris, who turns 30 in April, can’t be called young in terms of age.
But Friday’s game was only his 12th T20 for South Africa – and he made it count by dismissing Glenn Phillips and Colin Munro with consecutive deliveries in the third over.
Andile Phehlukwayo, who turns 21 on March 3, held his nerve and with that a haul of 3/19.
For all that, there no getting away from the fact that Tahir was the star.
“He is a big reason why we’ve had the success we’ve had over the last 10 months (in the short formats),” Du Plessis said.
“He’s just become so consistent and that’s a massive weapon.
“Even if teams to get off to a good start you know the chances of him coming on and doing really well are very high.
“He’s not bowling bad balls anymore and he puts a lot of pressure on the opposition with his variety and skill.”
As impressive as Friday’s performance was, Du Plessis knew it didn’t count for much in terms of the five-match one-day series that starts in Hamilton on Sunday.
“That’s the only thing you can really take away from tonight, the fact that you want to start a series really well,” he said.
“When two good teams are playing against each other you want to put a peg in the ground and show what brand of cricket you are playing.
“In a one-off game where anything can happen, it was about the style of cricket we played.
“But Sunday is a brand new start and we have to make sure that we start over because they’re a quality one-day side.”