I tuned in to Sky yesterday afternoon to watch the second T20 international between South Africa and Sri Lanka. I was keen to see Imran Tahir in action and he didn't disappoint.
Imran bowled a beautiful four-over spell with nary a bad ball. Even on a wicket that favours the bowlers, you have to put the ball in the right areas and Sri Lanka, realising he was the danger man, took no risks against him. Four overs for 14 was an exceptional effort and he has a delightful loop to his bowling, as well as an ever-dangerous quicker ball. He seems to bowl more googlies than orthodox leg spin these days, but batsmen still struggle to work out which is which, testimony to a very wily bowler when you have played all these years.
He has today been included in his country's one-day squad for the forthcoming series against the same opponents and rightly so. On the basis of yesterday's viewing, Aaron Phangiso is a country mile back in terms of ability. Indeed, that must be a worry for supporters, because with most of their big names rested, the next tier down looked to be of questionable ability, especially with people who may have been in the mix having signed Kolpak deals.
For all the protestations from the convenor of selectors that they have four men (Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo) now vying to replace Jacques Kallis, that is, with respect, like saying you are replacing Pavarotti with Paul Potts. Decent cricketers all, but you don't replace a craftsman quite that easily.
There were wretched shots from several players and the whole thing looked like the sort of mess that we have become all too used to from Derbyshire in recent summers. Sri Lankan debutant Lakshan Sandakan bowled one or two balls of absolute filth, yet ended up with four wickets as batsmen who couldn't read his left hand leg spin action attempted to second guess and reverse sweep, with inevitable and ugly results.
There was one bright spot though, with new fast bowler Lungi Ngidi looking a huge talent at 20. On a slow wicket he was still too quick for some of the Sri Lankans, despite a first-class career in which he has comfortably under fifty wickets. If he develops like Kagiso Rabada, South Africa will have a pair of quicks who will keep batsmen a-hopping for many years to come.
Still, what the game did was confirm that leggies are potent weapons in the format and the man who can disguise his variations will likely do very well.
Nice that we will have three of them a-twirling this summer...