Tahir a champion in search of a trophy

Sunday Times


IMRAN Tahir has bowled 8811 legitimate deliveries for South Africa. Of those, 245 have claimed wickets.

He has sent down each of those balls as if his life depended on them doing as he intended, and South Africa’s medical crew must be mildly concerned that he will survive his mad celebration whenever he takes a wicket.

But nothing Tahir has yet done on a cricket ground has been freighted with the full expression of his commitment, passion and just plain gees as much as a particular specimen of that lesser weapon of armed intent: the throw.

The Railway Stand curved beyond Tahir’s back at Newlands on the night of October 12 last year as he surged a few paces from the backward point boundary to meet the scurrying ball.

Tahir, bathed in neon, stooped to scoop the poop.

That done, his left leg stabbed forward and braced like bejaysus.

His right elbow had squeezed past his scapula, past his spine …

His shoulder was torqued like a tiger …

His arm was locked and loaded …

The elbow led, the forearm followed, and the hand did its job.

That was to release the ball, which tore flat, fast and true through the sky like a dagger through velvet.

David Warner was at the other end of this alchemic equation.

Prosaically, Warner had veered wide of his leg stump, slashed Andile Phehlukwayo to backward point, and decided there were two runs to add to the 172 he had already scored.

Poetically, the moment was spiked with the context of a confrontation between Tahir and Warner that had burned brighter than the floodlights for several minutes.

First the umpires, then Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla, had failed to put a leash on an increasingly rabid Tahir as he advanced on an increasingly bemused Warner.

To do what? Who could tell, but there was cordite in the air.

Tahir wouldn’t be told. He was doing the telling.

According to him, Warner had lit the fire: “I think he was trying to get under my skin because I was bowling well.

“But even though I was aggressive towards him I was calm inside, and we did shake hands afterwards and I gave him a pat on the back because he batted really well.”

Back to the ball, which rent the night on those razor-edged wings and arrived just so in Quintin de Kock’s gloves poised a breath from the bails – which were nudged groundward with a straining Warner out of his ground.

“I wanted to win the game before that; when I was bowling to him,” Tahir said. “But I had another opportunity and luckily the ball hit the target: Quinton took it well.”

Nevermind that Tahir is South Africa’s leading current bowler in major ODI tournaments in terms of wickets, average and economy rate.

Nevermind that no-one has taken four or more wickets more often for South Africa on the biggest ODI stages.

Nevermind that he has not played ODIs in England before.

Everything we needed to know about Tahir’s commitment, passion and just plain gees turned Newlands’ night air a darker shade of blue on October 16 last year.

And then came the throw.

It takes that kind of thing to win trophies.

It takes champions.

Bring on the Champions Trophy.

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