South Africa in England 2012 August 8, 2012

No-ball issues mystify Tahir


Most of the South African squad are enjoying some down time at the London Olympics but Imran Tahir, the legspinner, would be advised to use the opportunity to work on his no-ball problem with South African women's' javelin finalist Sunette Viljoen. Like bowlers, javelin throwers are not allowed to step outside their throwing area, something Tahir has been doing with unusual regularity.

He bowled nine no-balls in the Headingley Test match, eight of them in the first innings and four on the fourth morning, when South Africa were going after England's last five wickets. To add to the eight no-balls he bowled at the Oval, Tahir has sent down almost three extra overs in the series and developed an area of concern that did not affect him previously.

"That is the main issue for me at the moment, because I don't want to carry on like this," Tahir said with a distressed expression. "I have never been a bowler who bowls so many no-balls in a game. I just don't know what happened. I need to go and check my action."

Despite the overstepping, Tahir has been among the wickets and has recorded his best results after two Tests in a series. He is South Africa's joint second-highest wicket-taker, with seven scalps, the same number as Morne Morkel and three behind Dale Steyn, and wrapped up the England tail at Leeds with three wickets in 13 balls.

Combine that with the overall numbers: Tahir also has a slightly better average than Morkel and a lower economy rate than Steyn and you may see a sign that he is learning to blend defensive tactics with aggressive ones.

"I am trying to be as patient as I can," Tahir said. "I have always been an attacking bowler but I am trying my best to learn every day."

Failing to rein in over-eager instincts is something Tahir has been criticised for, particularly when he used his variations indiscriminately. He has since become shrewder in deciding when to bowl his googly and he has seen the results. Many of England's batsmen were unable to pick the delivery as Tahir disguised it cleverly.

But he erred by mixing up threatening balls with a assortment of freebies - full tosses and long hops - that he admitted were a poor reflection on his own ability. "I didn't bowl well the first day. It was hard for me in the first innings," Tahir said. "I think two or three balls turned in the whole five days. The cracks are very hard, not like at The Oval."

Unhelpful surfaces have been the norm for Tahir, since he made his Test debut for South Africa against Australia in November last year. Although he has seasons of experience in England, on tracks that offer turn, wet weather has prevented them from behaving similarly this time around. Tahir is hopeful that the third Test, at Lord's, will present him with the opportunity to come into this own.

"It has always been a flat wicket at Lord's and I think it will turn more than at Headingley," Tahir said. London is forecast to remain dry for the rest of the weekend but rain is predicted for the first few days of next week, before it clears in time for the Test.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mahjut on August 9, 2012, 18:23 GMT

    I like Tahir ... he definitely has some issues with consistency but he's a good bowler. Obviously with an average of 10 with 14 wkts in 5 ODIs in the sub-continent one would have to assume he has the stuff on helpful wickets. His tally in England shows he can take some on unhelpful wickets but it's most encouraging to see he knows he's bowled some dross this tour and needs to tighten up!

  • christie on August 9, 2012, 18:05 GMT

    I would like Tahir to turn his stock delivery more. When he started playing for SA at the previous world cup, it looked to me like he got more turn. I think he compensated for faster SA pitches by bowling it faster through the air, but it seems he now rarely rips it out of foot marks etc. The current team environment is ideal for him to grow in stature under Gary Kirsten, even though wickets my be harder to grab between Steyn, Morkel, Philander and Kallis.

  • Dummy4 on August 9, 2012, 16:32 GMT

    @dilbertZA i agree with you 100% and wouldve written something similar myself. He still has a career and challenges ahead of him, and i like the way he his growing in stature.

  • Mike on August 9, 2012, 7:37 GMT

    World cricket opponents are lucky that SA only have one/"average" spinner like Tahir. Otherwise they would be even more dominant then they are becoming ! Certainly they have a great fast attack backed by batsmen who give them the runs to attack with. Funny that IMO their fielding has not reached the heights of the past.

  • christie on August 9, 2012, 5:56 GMT

    Tahir have got 25 wickets for 903 runs in 9 matches. Shane warne took 21 for 885 in his first 9 - only idiots would judge Tahir so early in his career. Imo he is doing ok so far, and I hope SA give him a good run. He may go either way still, lets see how he develops and talk again after 30 tests.

  • naeem on August 8, 2012, 20:55 GMT

    Pakistan definitely producing the best spinners in the world at the moment...

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2012, 19:37 GMT

    He has got potential...Just let him play in a bit supportive conditions :)

  • Jay on August 8, 2012, 19:26 GMT

    I have nothing against Tahir but this guy will be cannon fodder to teams who can play spin better, like Asian teams. He doesn't have many variations and his wrong one can be easily negotiated by school boys. He needs more pace variation along with flight and drift to become a good leggie. He could approach Shane Warne who is currently in the UK doing commentary with the Sky Sports team. I am sure Warne can help the guy out. There is no doubt that Tahir has the enthusiasm and ability. But in all honesty I can't see this man playing for any other team who have better spin options. Only a team like SA can accommodate him.

  • Nicholas on August 8, 2012, 19:24 GMT

    A spinner bowling so many no-balls is very odd. You can forgive a fast bowler over-stepping sometimes as they're charging in 'Usain Bolt' style! But spinners like Tahir just walk/amble in, and really there's no excuse for so much over-stepping! Does he check the ground? Has he measured his run... sorry, 'walk'-up? Otherwise, he's a tidy bowler and I hope he has a good, long run in the SA team. I don't understand the comparisons with Steyn/Morkel though... Apples and oranges IMO.

  • shahid on August 8, 2012, 19:21 GMT

    He is surely the best spinner in South Africa and 7 wicket in two matches considering no turn in wickets isn't bad at all. He will better day by day.

  • No featured comments at the moment.