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August 8, 2012
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.
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