Imran Tahir to stake claim for ODIs
Imran Tahir appears to be back into limited-overs contention for South Africa after he was included in the Invitation XI to play Pakistan in a fifty-over warm-up match next Wednesday. The team will be led by Lions' captain Stephen Cook and consists largely of players from the Lions and Dolphins franchises as the rest will be busy playing domestic twenty-over matches.
Tahir appeared in 5 ODIs during the 2011 World Cup and was South Africa's second-most successful bowler with 14 wickets, but he has not played since. Instead, Johan Botha and Robin Peterson tussled over the premier spinners' role that eventually went Peterson's way when Botha relocated to Australia last September.
Peterson has since shared the role with Lions' left-armer Aaron Phangiso who excelled at the Champions League T20. Tahir's role has been limited to Tests but even there, he has lost out to Peterson.
After playing 11 Tests for South Africa including tours of New Zealand, England and Australia, Tahir was dropped following a drubbing in Adelaide. He was taken for 260 runs and went wicketless. He has since been playing the domestic game to regain form and confidence.
At the Lions' franchise, Tahir plays an important senior role, which was evident in the way he made his comeback in the domestic one-day cup final. Although it was washed out, Tahir took two wickets in two overs and has been a regular in the T20 campaign as well. He may see this as another chance to stake a claim for a comeback especially as both his List A and Twenty20 averages are lower than his first-class average.
Other notable names in the XI are the IPL's latest rich-kid Chris Morris who will also feature in South Africa's T20 squad and wicket-keeper batsman Quinton de Kock who was dropped from the ODI squad but remains part of the plans.
"This match provides opportunities for players to show what they can do at a higher level and also to enjoy the special experience of playing against an international team. We have seen a number of players taking advantage of matches both for South Africa A and the Invitation sides to earn places in the national set-up," Vincent Barnes, coach of the Invitation side and manager of the High Performance Programme said.
"You don't have to look further than Kyle Abbott for a good example of this. It is really heartening to see the excited feedback I get from players when they are offered this opportunity." Abbott played against Pakistan in their four-day warm-up match and took seven wickets that earned him a Test call up.
SA Invitation XI: Stephen Cook (capt), Craig Alexander, Temba Bavuma, Cody Chetty, Quinton de Kock, Imran Tahir, Chris Morris, Jean Symes, Jonathan Vandiar, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Hardus Viljoen Lizaad Williams
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent