Netherlands v SA, World T20, Group 1, Chittagong March 27, 2014

A triumph of belief for Tahir

Having overcome various challenges in his cricketing journey, Imran Tahir's conviction was at the fore once again as he helped South Africa stave off an embarrassing loss to Netherlands

His performance against Netherlands said a lot about Imran Tahir's potential in T20s © Getty Images

Imran Tahir never stopped believing. Not when he moved from Pakistan to South Africa and put a potential international career on hold with a qualification period. Not when he was picked for his adopted country but then prevented from playing because they thought he was prematurely eligible. Not when he was eventually legitimately selected but struggled to make an impact because he was surrounded by seamers who did early damage. Not when he was dropped after conceding Test cricket's worst figures of 0 for 260 and definitely not against the Netherlands on Thursday afternoon.

Before the match, most would have agreed with his convictions. On paper, South Africa against Netherlands is as much a mis-match as history has proven it to be. In the four ODIs they've played against each other, South Africa have won by massive margins, the smallest being 83 runs. The teams had never clashed in the shortest format but after the Dutch showing against Sri Lanka, it seemed South Africa would not have much to worry about.

But after they were restricted to a below-par total and Netherlands had raced to 63 for 1 in the Powerplay, needing only 83 off the last 14 overs, belief was exactly what was needed for South Africa. Luckily for them, Tahir had it.

"I had this belief that we could win this game," Tahir said afterwards. "Over the last two years, we've been involved in games like this and for most of it, we were on the winning side."

You only need to look at the first two matches South Africa have played in this competition for evidence of close encounters. Tahir was involved in both. He struck the blow that put them just six runs short of the 166-run target Sri Lanka set them and left South Africa wondering what could have been. He took the big wicket of Brendon McCullum that helped South Africa claw back into the match and they went on to beat New Zealand. And he sowed the first seeds of faith when he bowled a tidy over to halt a Netherlands' juggernaut that looked set to cause the biggest upset since Ireland in 2011.

When JP Duminy bowled Stephan Myburgh, Tahir's hopes would have grown a little. And they swelled when fortune smiled on the legspinner - it was his birthday after all - and Wesley Barresi was out lbw to him, even though replays showed the ball was going down the leg side.

South Africa built pressure but with a courageous Netherlands captain and Tom Cooper still at the crease, it was advantage Associates and Tahir knew it. "There were stages where you think the game is over but it was a great team effort," he said.

After Borren swept one time too many against Tahir and Dale Steyn had Ben Cooper caught behind trying to take evasive action, South Africa had reason to breathe easy despite the situation.

"I didn't feel that it was over - well maybe I did for a second - I just had that somewhere in myself that we were going to do it," Tahir said.

He ended up being the one to make it happen. Tahir's double strike to remove Tom Cooper and Pieter Seelar meant South Africa were into a fragile tail and even though the equation wasn't in their favour, they could relax a little.

That pair of scalps in the 14th over also gave Tahir his career-best returns in T20s and made him South Africa's highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far, apart from the highest in f the Super Ten stage of the tournament. Having only made his international debut in the format eight months ago and having played just ten matches, it says a lot about Tahir's ability in the shortest game and, he thinks, the impact a spinner can have. "Any spinner can change the game. It's been proven in T20 cricket," he said.

Tahir thinks there is a secret to success for attacking tweakers, although he is not willing to divulge it all just yet.

"You just need to go into matches with a clear plan in T20 cricket. If you go half-half, it's going to be really hard to come back," he said. "I am not going to tell you what I've been thinking but I've got clear plans on what to do to against each batsman. So you go with a clear plan and back yourself."

The only person not convinced there's any magic at play is Borren, who struggled to hide his irritation with the way his batsmen approached Tahir after they were talked up as being vulnerable to variation.

"It's unorthodox but it's legspin - he's bowling googlies and quicker legspinners, it's not something completely mysterious," Borren said. "We just made bad decisions, playing across the line. He bowled well, we know what he can do and we know that's what he's going to bowl. It was just poor decision-making."

And, if you ask Tahir, maybe not enough belief.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kashif on March 28, 2014, 17:17 GMT

    without any doubt he is a fighter in true sense. its not easy to get place in south African team as they are high ranked athletes in all departments(bowling, fielding, bating). He got that and proved his worth. he helped his team at crucial stages and gave them real chances to smile. However, whoever you are even if spiderman, Thor, batman etc. some will still raise fingers on your weaknesses or at least they will imagine some weakness.... there are some other people who pray and wait for your mistakes@thomas...... that's how human beings are different in opinion and you cant predict them. well done imran deserve the credit for victory

  • Bruce on March 28, 2014, 7:13 GMT

    @ Thomas Cherion: He did bowl against Sri Lanka just the other day and did very well - 3 for 26 if I recall. That implies that SL weren't exactly picking him or getting him away. They were a little bit clueless if you ask me and hardly picked his googly. So, based on your argument he is pretty good then. Thanks.

    What impresses me more is that he is no longer a walking wicket. His batting has improved enormously. Well done Imran - you are a great asset to the SA team. Just wish a few others would step up as well.

  • John on March 28, 2014, 6:41 GMT

    @Thomas, he has played Sri Lanka, in this tournament, in SA's first game - Imran Tahir 4 overs 26 runs 3 wickets, our best bowler in the game.

  • Will on March 28, 2014, 6:29 GMT

    @ Thoman Cherian Short term memory loss? He bowled against Sri Lanka just the other day: 4 overs, 3 for 26. Not to shabby against the number 1 T20 team. You have to give credit where it's due.

  • niaz on March 28, 2014, 5:26 GMT

    Styen and Tahir have been great. Hendricks doing well. Why does SA picks Tsotsobe? Why not let Hendricks, Styen and Tahir bowl 12 overs. Then let Then try Duminy, at the end Parnell and Morkel bowl the rest. SA left their Kyle Abbot home.. If he replaced Tsotsobe, SA would be really good.

  • Arif on March 28, 2014, 5:08 GMT

    @Thomas. Try to give credit where it's due. In the ODI and t20 format, Tahir has done well. Make an effort to be more positive buddy.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    Thomas Cherian. I don't think, it's Tahir's bowling but perhaps something else that bothers you about him right!! Because I have read your comments on this site (Saqlain, Amla etc) and most of them seem nasty and petty, particularly towards one community. Grow up.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 19:20 GMT

    Wait till Tahir bowls against Sri Lanka before you start thinking he is good.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2014, 19:10 GMT

    very awesome to see this fighter.SA didn't need to worry much about their spin rather they should fix their pacers specially i recommend parnel instead of tstotsobe

  • M on March 27, 2014, 17:59 GMT

    He's a gud addition to this SA side but i believe he is still susceptible to teams like India, Aus. Lets see how far he goes.

  • No featured comments at the moment.