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Foreign hand works

cricket Updated: Feb 25, 2011 02:32 IST
Subhash Rajta
Subhash Rajta
Hindustan Times
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During the recent ODI series against India, South Africa skipper Graeme Smith had to endure persistent questions on why he wasn't playing Imran Tahir.

As his response oscillated between studied silence and evasive replies, the questions became even more pointed; some even suggesting a 'colour' conspiracy.

On Thursday, the real reason for holding back the attacking leg spinner became clear. Smith, perhaps, wanted to keep the Pakistan-born leg-spinner under wraps and unleash him in the World Cup.

The benefits of the move were plenty against the West Indies. Tahir spun his web around them and picked up four wickets to help South Africa cruise to a seven-wicket victory in their opener at the Ferozshah Kotla.

Spin in the tale
South Africa sprung a surprise when they fielded all three spinners in Johan Botha, Robin Peterson and Tahir. Giving the tale a further spin, they opened with Botha, leaving danger man Chris Gayle surprised.

The big left-hander, who must have come in expecting thunderbolts from Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, fell to the trap on the third ball, edging one to Jacques Kallis in the slips.

Bravo show
The Proteas appeared to lose grip a bit when Darren Bravo launched a ferocious counter-attack with some superb stroke-play. The left-hander, who's seen by many as Brian Lara's successor, shared a 111-run partnership with Devon Smith to put the Windies back on track.

But the 73-run knock went in vain as the West Indies caved in after he was dismissed by Botha. Tahir took over and destroyed the middle order to keep the Windies to 222.

South Africa got off to a poor start, losing two wickets with just 20 on the board. But man-of-the-match AB de Villiers soothed the nerves with his composed yet aggressive unbeaten hundred.

He hit the ground running and everything found the middle of his bat.

He also got Smith going and they added 119 runs for the third wicket.

The de Villiers onslaught made the ordinary Windies' attack look even more pedestrian. With Dwayne Bravo twisting his knee, it's only going to get more difficult.