Smith spins a web around West Indies

By Avishek Roy, IANS
Thursday, February 24, 2011

NEW DELHI - South Africa captain Graeme Smith playing three spinners, including debutant leg-spinner Imran Tahir, has added a new dimension to the cricket World Cup. His move came off with Pakistan-born Imran claiming four wickets.

On the eve of the match, Smith insisted that it was South Africa’s best spin attack in a World Cup. Spinners, he said will rule the roost. A day before South Africa’s best spinner, offie Johan Botha had said there is a possibility of South Africa playing three spinners, considering their variety and ability to deliver the goods in powerplays.

“I am looking forward to playing with the other two spinners, though much will depend on the conditions,” Botha had said.

Botha did not know that Smith will grant his wish in the very first match.

Against West Indies, Smith surprised everyone by including all the three frontline spinners — Botha, left-arm Robin Peterson and Imran.

There, however, was a bigger surprise when Botha opened the bowling. Way back in 1992 World Cup, Deepak Patel, the New Zealand off-spinner, enjoyed a fair bit of success opening the attack.

Botha did not disappoint his skipper and took the prize wicket of Chris Gayle with the third ball of the match.

The battle had just begun. With a pursed smile, Smith was waiting to unleash Tahir.

Tahir,31, only became eligible to play for South Africa this year and was immediately drafted into the one-day squad to play against India.

He was kept under wraps for the World Cup.

Tahir has played first-class cricket for 15 years in Pakistan and also played in England. He has taken a staggering 547 wickets in 128 first class matches. And he did not falter in rising to the big occasion Thursday.

He took Devon Smith (31), caught and bowled, and then went on to dismiss Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Devon Thomas, returning excellent figures of 4-41.

Smith also used his spinners in short spells, giving other captains plenty to think on how to use the spin attack on the subcontinent tracks.

As if taking the cue from Smith, West Indies also opened the attack with left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn. Ben struck very early, though South Africa handled him well thereafter.

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