Imran Tahir has been released by South Africa for the remainder of their T20 series against Zimbabwe in order for South Africa’s selectors to have a closer look at left-arm wristspinner Tabraiz Shamsi.
Tahir took 10 wickets, including a hat-trick, across the one-day internationals last week and claimed five wickets in just 17 deliveries to finish with a career-best 5 for 23 in the opening T20I against Zimbabwe in East London on Tuesday. Twice he has also opened the bowling, adding to his already formidable skill set in white-ball cricket.
“I’m just happy that it’s coming out nicely at the moment,” said the understated Tahir after his match-winning performance. “Now and then it will be a big challenge to bowl with the new ball with only two men out, but I’m up for the challenge. I’m really keen to learn and experiment, and see where I am. It helps to have someone bowling at 140 from the other end. It makes my job easier.”
While he remains a vital part of South Africa’s plans building towards the World Cup next year, Tahir’s workload has often been managed by the team management. He was also left out of the tour of Sri Lanka earlier this year in order to give an opportunity for coach Ottis Gibson to see what South Africa’s other spinners can do.
Tahir’s absence will bring both pressure and opportunity for Shamsi, the sole specialist spinner remaining in South Africa’s squad. Shamsi has yet to take a wicket in two limited-overs matches against Zimbabwe, and has struggled in Tahir’s shadow.
In the Paarl ODI, Shamsi registered the most expensive figures ever for a South African against Zimbabwe, leaking 72 runs in 10 overs, and in the first T20, he was at the receiving end of Peter Moor’s charge – the Zimbabwean smashing four sixes in a 25-run over.
As the series moves up to the highveld for two games in Potchefstroom and Benoni, it was always less likely that South Africa would even pick two spinners in their playing XI. With Tahir gone, Shamsi has a chance to show the coaches and selectors where he might fit into their plans.