Cricket: Imran Tahir's rise shows dangers awaiting NZ

By David Leggat

Imran Tahir, who has taken 121 ODI wickets in 69 matches at 23.2 apiece, is also No 1 in the T20 form.
Imran Tahir, who has taken 121 ODI wickets in 69 matches at 23.2 apiece, is also No 1 in the T20 form.

You can't fault Imran Tahir for timing.

As South Africa were flying out to New Zealand for their seven-week tour, the veteran legspinner moved to the top spot among the game's best ODI bowlers - and that gives him two of the three top spots in the international game.

Tahir, who has taken 121 ODI wickets in 69 matches at 23.2 apiece, is also No 1 in the T20 form. The 37-year-old has overtaken New Zealand swing bowler Trent Boult at the top of the ODI list - and throw in that South Africa have four of the top six-ranked one-day batsmen and you get an idea of the size of the challenge New Zealand face.

ODI captain AB de Villiers is No2, behind Australian opener David Warner, with India's Virat Kohli No3, followed by South Africans Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla at four, five and sixth equal respectively.

New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson is shunted down to sixth equal, with opener Martin Guptill at No 9.

And if you doubt the strength of South Africa's desire, de Villiers made it plain before leaving South Africa. Their 5-0 sweep of Sri Lanka gives them 11 wins on the bounce at home - Tahir taking 10 wickets at 17 each in that rubber - and lifted them to No 1 ODI nation. New Zealand are third, six points adrift.

"We have got a bit of unfinished business there," de Villiers said, taking his mind back to the World Cup semifinal at Eden Park in 2015, the last time South Africa were in New Zealand.

"We're very keen to play good cricket against a team who have also played well over the last while.

"It definitely gives you confidence going as No 1 in the world. It's because we've been playing good cricket over a long period of time.

"We definitely deserve to be there and want to keep up what we've been doing, so we're very motivated to do well," he said.

South Africa arrived last night and will play a warm-up game against a New Zealand XI tomorrow on Eden Park's outer oval before the sole T20 clash at Eden Park on Friday night. Five ODIs and three tests follow that, the tour ending with the final test in Hamilton starting on March 25.

- NZ Herald

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