ODI debutant Tahir triggers West Indies collapse

Debutant Imran Tahir took 4 for 41 in 10 overs.

By Jamie Alter

New Delhi: Feb 24, 2011

There were eyebrows raised when Graeme Smith included three frontline spinners and opted to field, but after 50 overs the decision seemed vindicated with South Africa left to chase 223 under lights in Delhi. From a comfortable position of 113 for one, Darren Bravo s exit for a sparkling 72 was followed by West Indies imploding to be bowled out for 222 in 47.3 overs. There was finally an ODI debut for Imran Tahir, the Pakistan-born, county cricket-enhanced legspinner, and he justified his inclusion with figures of four for 41.

Smith s ploy to open with Johan Botha worked a charm. Botha got one to drift and turn sharply to take Chris Gayle s outside edge third ball of the match, and South Africa were ecstatic. That was followed by the one passage of play that West Indies dominated.

Of Darren Bravo s initial strokes, not one would be out of place in a Test match. The youngster s driving and cutting has been eerily reminiscent of a certain Brian Lara, but today his wristy flourishes the leg-side was equally prominent. Two early flicks off Dale Steyn were appetisers, a rasping cover drive off the same bowler, uppish but cracked with ferocity, the main course and a couple dismissive slaps off Jacques Kallis the dessert. With Devon Smith unable to force the pace, Darren Bravo continued to play positively and West Indies innings gained some momentum. Morne Morkel was driven straight and heaved for boundaries, and Tahir was welcomed to ODI cricket with a flowing six.

However, South Africa soon wised up: Smith shuffled his spinners, the off-side field was fortified and Darren Bravo s drives weren t as effective. Boundaries dried up and a crafty choke quickly fell into place: spin, some bounce, not much flight, and a cordon of alert fielders hurried the batsmen into their shots. Darren Bravo had little issues against the faster men and Tahir, but Robin Peterson bogged him before the batsman fell lbw to Botha. Darren Bravo s expression said it all: he knew he d thrown away a good opportunity to final crack the 100-mark in international cricket.

Smith struggled against Tahir especially, and eventually chipped a return catch. Ramnaresh Sarwan had little time to settle before he was sent on his way for two, after missing a one that turned slightly from leg. Sarwan challenged the umpire s decision, but the West Indies final referral went in vain. Sarwan seemed convinced there had been an inside edge; Tahir celebrated his second ODI wicket enthusiastically. Three wickets had fallen for three runs.

A brief fight-back followed, sparked by Dwayne Bravo s fluent hitting, but in true West Indian fashion, a dramatic collapsed ensued. Dwayne Bravo was run out needlessly, Shivnarine Chanderpaul attempted one hit too many and gave Tahir his third, and Kieron Pollard lasted one ball struck stone dead in front by Steyn. With just two deliveries left in Tahir s quota, Devon Thomas injudiciously slogged into the sky, followed by Steyn nailing Darren Sammy for 0. Suliemann Benn was left to throw the bat around in the batting Powerplay, but didn t last long before he became Steyn s third wicket.

Brief Scores: West Indies 222 all out in 47.3 overs (Darren Bravo 73, Dwayne Bravo 40, Devon Smith 36; Imran Tahir 4 for 41, Dale Steyn 3 for 24) vs South Africa.

(Jamie Alter is a freelance cricket writer, having worked at ESPNcricinfo and All Sports Magazine.His first book, The History of World Cup Cricket, is out now.)

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