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Imran Tahir‘s almost two-year-old son Gibran predicted that his father would end up with a four-for in the first T20I against England but no one can guess what the legspinner would have had done had he taken a fifth, not even the man himself.
“I was talking to my wife earlier and she asked my son, ‘How many wickets is daddy going to take today?’ and he said ‘two plus two.’ That’s what he said and I’m really happy I got it,” Tahir stated after the match, which South Africa won off the last ball with three wickets to spare.
Tahir’s third and fourth wickets, Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali, came off successive deliveries and he was inches away from taking a fifth to complete a hat-trick when Chris Jordan missed a googly that carried over the top of the stumps. Had the ball hit, Tahir would have “probably ended up in the crowd but I am not sure.” Faf du Plessis guessed that his bowler may have “run up the mountain” in delight but perhaps Tahir would have instigated a group hug – similar to the one he smothered du Plessis in when Moeen Ali was dismissed.
Du Plessis was at cover when Tahir dished up a full delivery to Ali, who picked out the South African captain exactly as the side had planned. “We get excited when stuff we are working on falls into place. That was a big hug between me and Immi because that’s exactly what we wanted to do,” du Plessis said. “I said make him hit the ball to me at cover and he did exactly that.”
Tahir final returns of 4 for 21 equalled his career-best effort and ensured England did not get away after Alex Hales and Jason Roy’s blazing start. “His control tonight was great. He bowled one full toss but the rest was exceptional. He spun the ball both ways,” du Plessis said. “He wins games of cricket on his own. As a captain, that’s a huge weapon to have. Even though they had a great start, I knew that on that surface, Immi was going to be a handful.”
But South Africa almost bottled the advantage Tahir gave them and had to rely on another individual effort to chase down a small target of 135. Chris Morris scored 15 runs off the final over and two off the last ball to pull South Africa over the line. After his heroics in the Wanderers ODI, Morris has earned the moniker ‘Chuck Morris’, but du Plessis explained there is a trick to bringing out the big-hitter’s destructive best.
“The key is to get Morris to the crease not when there are four overs left but when there are one or two overs left. He is very good at clearing the rope. He can hit sixes from ball one,” du Plessis said. “Him and David Wiese can both do it. It just makes your batting line-up so destructive. When it’s going for you, like it is for Morrie, it’s important that you ride the wave and he is doing that. He is winning games and that makes him an x-factor player.”
Du Plessis believes that South Africa have collectively improved in do-or-die situations and he hopes this will stand them in good stead at the upcoming World Twenty20. “In the last two years, I think we have made some big strides. That’s all you can do. You can try and get better at pressure moments,” he said. “That’s the only difference between games like these and games in the World Cup. The World Cup is 10-15% more pressure. If we can do well in games like this, like we did tonight, that’s great learning for us.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo