Tahir’s wickets add spin to tourist attack

Kent 210 South Africa 31-1

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The Independent Online

Imran Tahir defied expectations to be South Africa's most successful bowler on day one against Kent here yesterday.

Tahir's wrist-spin variations are being depicted as very much the final piece in a high-profile attack, otherwise dominated by pace, as South Africa bid to hijack England's No 1 Test status this summer.

Yet it was he who finished with four for 31, albeit including the last three in a long Kent tail, as Graeme Smith's team bowled their hosts out for 210.

After the tourists had closed on 31 for one in reply in this final warm-up match before next week's first Test at The Oval, Tahir spoke of his high hopes against England.

"I'm confident when my time comes; I'm really up for it," said the much-travelled Pakistani-born bowler, who has also played for four counties. "I've played one game at The Oval, and it turns a lot – especially in the second innings - so I'm looking forward to it."

Tahir knows English wickets will not come easy this summer, though. "I've got the variations, but it depends on how I use them," he said.

"They are good players, so I need to wait for the right time, and I hope I'll get a reward for that. It's going to be a good challenge for me."

If Tahir's chance does come – after Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander have already had theirs – he will doubtless be judged by many observers back home on how his wickets tally ultimately measures up to the hosts' Graeme Swann.

He said of his illustrious opposite number: "He's done really well for England, one of the best off-spinners in the world. I can't compare myself with him; I'm just waiting for my time."

South Africa needed Tahir to make short work of the tail, after Kent's openers had kept out the tourists for much of the first session.

Morkel went on to finish with three for 49. But it took him until the afternoon to get rid of teenager Daniel Bell-Drummond – who impressed, but admitted batting today was anything but easy.

"They're all very different: Morkel really tall and gets a lot of bounce, Steyn skiddy and swings it a lot," he said. "It's really hard adjusting to each bowler. It was seaming quite a bit, and Philander bowled quite a few good deliveries. I'm glad I could keep them out."

Smith had earlier chosen to bowl first, and the tourists could muster just one wicket in 29 overs on a bright morning.

Bell-Drummond and Sam Northeast, leading his county for the first time, comfortably dealt with the new-ball threat.

The pair, England Under-19s of current and recent vintage, demonstrated to their seniors how to handle Steyn, Philander and Morkel in an opening stand of 81.

It was not until after six bowling changes, involving Jacques Kallis as well for all five options in Smith's Test attack, that Northeast succumbed in Steyn's second spell.

He edged to slip, and Bell-Drummond was unable to add to his 42 before nicking Morkel behind as the tall fast bowler got one to hold its line from the Nackington Road End in the first over after lunch.

There followed a 22-over middle session – briefly interrupted by a rogue shower – in which Kent's young team managed 42 runs for the loss of three wickets.

Ben Harmison did not convince, eventually falling lbw to Philander from the Pavilion End, and Alex Blake was also trapped in front by Morkel – working up decent pace down the slope.

Powell took his apparent sheet-anchor brief to extremes, in an unbeaten 48 from 137 balls.

But after Sam Billings had edged a drive at J P Duminy, to be well held at slip, Matt Coles certainly took on Steyn.

He then counted boundaries with a lofted off-drive, pull past midwicket and a steer over gully.

Coles' departure, aiming to follow a slog-swept four off Tahir with a finer paddle but managing only an edge to slip, left Powell to try to eke out something substantial with the tail.