LONDON (AP) — Imran Tahir started off being mocked and jeered. When he was done, he received a standing ovation.
In between, he achieved the most wickets for South Africa in Cricket World Cup history.
Lord’s isn’t known as a spinner’s ground but Tahir conjured enough turn and guile to dismiss Pakistan opening batsmen Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq on Sunday.
In doing so, he overtook by one wicket the record of 38 by fast bowler Allan Donald, who retired after the 2003 World Cup.
South Africa was chasing 309 to stay in remote contention for the semifinals, but could be heartened by another memorable performance by Tahir, the oldest man in the tournament at 40, a fact he’s proud of.
“I thought it was going to be tough but the pitch did stop a bit,” he said. “I am pleased I did the job for my team and my country. They had a good start so I wanted to get a wicket. I am pleased I got one in my first over. My consistency was there so that was a good thing for me.”
It didn’t start out so well. In the 12th over, he appeared to take a grass-high catch on the boundary to break the opening partnership. He set off on one of his trademark celebratory sprints around the field, arms out like he’s flying. But the umpires ruled the ball bounced into Tahir’s hands, and it was confirmed on video review. When Tahir returned to the midwicket boundary, fans of Pakistan, the country of his birth, mocked him and laughed at his non-catch.
Tahir had the next laugh, though.
He got Fakhar to lob a simple catch to first slip in the 15th over, then dismissed Imam in the 21st with a fantastic reaction one-handed catch low to his right. The feisty Tahir took that opportunity after another party run to blow kisses to the heavily pro-Pakistan crowd.
“I am not known for my caught and bowled,” he said. “The coaching guys are on my back all the time saying it is not good enough. After today’s catch I can go and have a word with them.”
He should have had a third wicket but Mohammad Hafeez’s thick edge behind was dropped. Tahir dropped to his knees and hands. Hafeez rubbed it in when he became the first batsman at this World Cup to hit Tahir for a six. It had taken Tahir 317 deliveries to concede one. He didn’t concede another, as Pakistan gave him careful regard and were glad to see the back of him after the 41st over.
His shift complete, Tahir received a couple of congratulatory hugs from teammates. Then as he walked back to his boundary position, Pakistan fans stood to applaud his team-best figures of 10-0-41-2. Tahir waved his hat, then waved as the applause was sustained.
South Africa hasn’t had a memorable tournament but Tahir has. He started his third and last World Cup — he’s retiring from one-day internationals when the tournament is over — by bowling the very first delivery and becoming the first spinner to do so. The second ball got England’s Jonny Bairstow out for a golden duck.
He played his 100th ODI against Bangladesh, was man of the match in the sole win against Afghanistan, and has taken 10 wickets, one of only seven bowlers in this tournament, and leads South Africa.
He’s going out in style.
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