Tahir lays down gauntlet to Swann in battle of spin kings

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Imran Tahir defied expectations to be South Africa’s most successful bowler on day one against Kent at Canterbury.

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 4-31, 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 31-1 in reply in this final warm-up match before next week’s first Investec 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 on how his wickets tally measures up to the hosts’ Graeme Swann.

He said of his 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 finished with 3-49, including the wicket of teenager Daniel Bell-Drummond – who admitted batting was anything but easy. “They’re all very different, Morkel tall and gets a lot of bounce, Steyn skiddy and swings it a lot.”