Imran Tahir celebrates taking the wicket of Asghar Afghan

Albie Morkel previews South Africa"s game against Afghanistan on Saturday (3:54)

FacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmail1:58 PM ETAndrew Fidel Fernando at EdgbastonFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

Do South Africa want a turning track at Edgbaston or don"t they? Against New Zealand, is spin an opportunity or a threat?

On one hand, they have Imran Tahir, easily the most fearsome of the spinners in either squad - his average of 24.28 is at least 10 better than that of Mitchell Santner, the New Zealand spinner with the best numbers. On the other hand, their middle order has proven incontinent in the face of high quality spin during this tournament. In the match against India, they lost four wickets to legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal, one to left-arm wristspinner Kuldeep Yadav, and essentially surrendered the game in a four-over period in which they lost three batsmen.

Tahir, at least, seems to be in wicket-taking form. Although he was unsuccessful against India, he had taken two wickets apiece against England and Bangladesh, before running through Afghanistan - his googly flummoxing several batsmen - as he claimed 4 for 29. The tawny colour of the Edgbaston surface suggests there could be some turn on offer, and if there is, Tahir is best-placed among the potential participants in this game to exploit it.

"Imran has been a star for this team," spin coach Claude Henderson said. "He has proven to world cricket how well he can perform, even when he is under pressure. He is in a good space, he is bowling well, and he is excited. This is his last World Cup, but he is loving every minute still, which is amazing. He"s got great passion and what an example he is for any young cricketer."

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But how will their own batsmen fare, if there is turn to be had here? Although they were successful in denying Rashid Khan a wicket on a green surface in Cardiff, South Africa"s record against spin over the past two years is not encouraging. Their team average against spin over the past two years is 35.97, which places them seventh out of the 10 sides at this World Cup. New Zealand, meanwhile, are up at fourth with an average of 40.35 against spin in the same period.

"We chat a lot about playing spin, because spin bowling has had a big effect on the one-day game," Henderson said. "It might be that at Edgbaston that"s the case, because of the slowness of the wicket. It"s also a case of confidence. We played some good cricket against Afghanistan, and had some good practices. We"ll be staying positive."

Against wristspin, South Africa"s numbers over the past two years are even worse. They average 25.21 against legspinners and left-arm wristspinners through this period. They are worse only than Sri Lanka and Afghanistan out of teams at this tournament. Should the conditions allow, perhaps New Zealand will consider deploying legspinner Ish Sodhi for the first time in this World Cup.

"Ish Sodhi is a good bowler, and he has showed in the past that he can also take wickets," Henderson said. "We definitely don"t underestimate him. Santner is a good spinner as well. It"s nice to have Imran but from a batting point of view, our preparation is knowing exactly what we are going to face and understanding the conditions."

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