Tahir shows spin still rules at Eden Gardens

Tahir credits Dhoni for IPL success (4:19)

Imran Tahir on chats with his CSK captain and his bowling tweaks after a match-winning spell in Kolkata (4:19)

Fortune favours the brave. We've heard commentators say that when an aggressive slash flies over the keeper's head. But what about spinners? You give the ball a bit of air, and more often than not, you crane your neck back to see the ball fly over your head.

But not Imran Tahir. At 40, Tahir may not be the quickest on the field but he sure has the biggest heart. On an Eden Gardens surface where spinners averaged 70 runs per wicket and conceded 9.23 runs per over this season before the start of the game, Tahir produced his best IPL figures - 4 for 27 - by attacking the Kolkata Knight Riders top order with a lovely mix of flight, guile and turn. Oh, and he also very nearly ran the fastest 100m sprint by any man on a cricket field.

On the eve of the match, Knight Riders batting coach Simon Katich joked that his spinners - the most potent trio before the start of the season - may need to have a chat with the curators. Before this game, only six wickets fell to spinners in the three games played at Eden Gardens this year. But when Knight Riders' innings ended, Tahir had singlehandedly reminded everyone that spin still rules here - if you have the skills, but more importantly, if you have the guts.

It all began in the 11th over when Tahir knocked out two Indian top-order batsmen within three balls to reduce Knight Riders from 79 for 1 to 80 for 3. Unafraid of batsman taking him on, Tahir's legbreak first found the inside-half of Nitish Rana's leg-side swipe, only to find Faf du Plessis at long-on. Two balls later, another legbreak landed outside off and enticed Robin Uthappa so much, that he couldn't resist a big shot off just his first ball. It took a leading edge, and there was du Plessis, running in from long-off to take a superlative diving catch. Both times, Tahir's ability to get the ball to dip late, forced the error from the batsmen. Thinking it would land fuller, both Rana and Uthappa felt they were closer to the ball that it actually was, and met their end in similar fashion.

With a couple of wickets under Super Kings' belt, MS Dhoni took Tahir out of the attack. A 40-run spell of three overs between Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner, however, forced Dhoni to turn to Tahir again. And Tahir did not disappoint.

"Tahir, today, reminded everyone that spin still rules at Eden Gardens - if you have the skills, but more importantly, if you have the guts."

He slid one into Lynn - who was looking menacing on 82 - and tempted him to swing across the line, only to find the fielder to square leg. But that bought in Andre Russell, and it set us up for the game's most mouth-watering contest.

Russell, not one to give an inch himself, drilled Tahir's first ball to the leg-side fence. Later in the over, he erred for perhaps the only time on the day, going too full against IPL's hottest hitter and paid the price, as the ball flew over his head and nearly took the sponsor's car out.

It was crunch time now. Would Tahir stick to his tried and tested method of enticing batsmen with his flight or would he panic?

Well, he did something in between. The legspinner went for a slider, flattening his trajectory, but still keeping the length full. And this time with an extra zip from his wrists, all Russell could do was find the substitute fielder manning the long-on fence.

In the space of four balls, Tahir had removed Knight Riders' top scorer and their danger man.

"Look, I could've bowled so that I could take a few dot balls or that Russell played me for a single, but I took it up as a challenge," he said at the post-match press conference. "I wanted to get Russell out, it's as simple as that. I don't mind getting hit for sixes, but I got his wicket. The team needed the wicket at that stage, so happy we got him out. I don't bowl for personal numbers. "

When Tahir walked off the ground at the end of the first innings, he was hurried by the producers for a TV op. He had leapfrogged from sixth to first on the list of highest wicket-takers for the season and was presented with the purple cap. When the photographer asked him to strike a pose, Tahir wore the cap but asked the person to wait a moment. He wanted to tuck his Super Kings cap between his folded arms, a simple reminder that team comes first, and individual performances mattered very little to the man playing his 22nd year of top-flight cricket.