Proteas star breaks into world top 5

 Imran Tahir (Gallo Images)
Imran Tahir (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - You can’t keep a good man down … even if he happens to be a 40-year-old, enormously well-travelled cricketer.

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Evergreen leg-spinner Imran Tahir, at the Wanderers on Saturday, shifted into a berth within the top five of all-time wicket-takers in Twenty20 matches (both international and franchise level) in global history.

Before the start of his match for the Nelson Mandela Bay Giants against hosts and defending champions Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League (MSL), Tahir stood on 339 wickets, so sixth at the time on the list.

But in a performance that only underlined his ongoing, infectious enthusiasm and levels of guile, Tahir bagged a typically impactful return of three for 23 in a full four-over spell as the Stars, batting first, were curtailed to 108 all out with eight deliveries still unused.

That haul lifted the Proteas veteran to 342 career wickets overall (274 matches, for a galaxy of teams including South Africa) in the format - elbowing out Pakistan’s left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir (340) from fifth spot.

Only above Tahir now stand the leader, West Indian all-rounder Dwayne Bravo (490 in a 14-year career so far), then Sri Lanka’s pace “toe-crusher” Lasith Malinga (387), another West Indian in Sunil Narine (379) and Bangladesh’s Shakib Al Hasan (354).

The nearest other South African player to Tahir on the chart is Alfonso Thomas, the now retired all-rounder who bagged 263 wickets around the planet between 2004 and 2015 - including three scalps in a solitary T20 international for the Proteas against Pakistan at the “Bullring” in 2007 - to have him in 14th overall.

If you include his currently 38-cap career in the shortest format for the SA national team, Tahir has represented 18 different T20 causes across the globe.

His 342 wickets have come at an average of 20.11 and economy rate of a touch over seven runs to the over.

While Tahir has retired from the one-day international format, where he snared 173 wickets in 107 appearances for the Proteas, he is still available - at least as things stand - for contention for the SA squad at the next ICC T20 World Cup in Australia in October next year.

He looks like remaining a very handy weapon, too.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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