Lancashire 261-5 v Hampshire: Tahir steps on gas to boost Hampshire survival hopes

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The Independent Online

Seeking a third consecutive Championship victory against a side they beat at the Rose Bowl nine days ago, Lancashire undoubtedly enjoyed the best of things but Hampshire were offered a glimpse at least of potential salvation for their season.

He may not be Shane Warne but, on his Championship debut, Imran Tahir revealed himself as the wicket-taking leg-spinner who may yet drag them away from the bottom of the table. The 29-year-old Pakistan A international – Hampshire's third overseas player of the season – bowled with enthusiasm and craft and probably deserved even more than the four wickets he took.

Tahir has an extraordinary CV. In a career now spanning 67 first-class matches he has represented no fewer than 13 domestic teams – nine in his home country, one in South Africa and three in England, following earlier excursions with Middlesex and Yorkshire. His teams in Pakistan include the Water and Power Development Authority and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited, which – as one colleague wittily observed – gives a new meaning to the term "utility player".

But it does not end there. He can also boast a noteworthy career in English club cricket. In 2002 he took a record-equalling 104 wickets in a season for Norton in Hales in the North Staffs and South Cheshire League, in which competition he took 5 for 34 for Moddershall against Leek only last Saturday, the day before making his Hampshire bow in the Pro-40.

Lancashire have come across him before. He took 3 for 31 and scored 41 not out for Staffordshire against them in the C&G Trophy in 2004, while his only previous Championship wicket, for Middlesex in 2003, was one of theirs. His analysis on that occasion was an unflattering 1 for 128 from 39 overs. Yesterday's 4 for 80 from 31 overs was a substantial improvement.

On a day interrupted for 105 minutes by rain – this is Manchester – his successes began when Lou Vincent top-edged a sweep after a rattling opening stand of 110 in 24 overs with Paul Horton, both batsmen making half-centuries. Horton was caught off bat and pad and Iain Sutcliffe fell to Tahir's googly, which he edged to slip. Coming back for the last over of the day, he bowled Steven Croft with the final delivery.