DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Imran Tahir declared himself more of a South African than a Pakistani after making a dream return to test cricket for the Proteas on Wednesday against the country of his birth.

The legspinner's career-best 5-32 skittled out Pakistan for just 99 and South Africa finished the first day at 128-3.

Tahir said he is "more South African" than Pakistani now and that the opportunity to play for South Africa is something he will "always remember till the day I die."

Only 11 months ago at Adelaide, Tahir returned figures of 0-260 against Australia before he was duly dropped from test squad.

But the 34-year-old Tahir didn't lose heart.

He continued to work hard while playing in South African domestic cricket and was picked for the two-test series against Pakistan.

"Off season hard work has really paid off, I am very grateful that it has happened today," he said.

After losing the first test by seven wickets in Abu Dhabi, Tahir's inclusion was very much on the cards in Dubai as the wickets in the United Arab Emirates traditionally helps the spinners.

Robin Peterson could not make an impression in Abu Dhabi and Tahir grabbed the opportunity with both hands when he replaced the leftarm spinner on Wednesday.

Captain Graeme Smith introduced Tahir in the first hour after Pakistan batsmen were edgy against the three-pronged pace attack led by Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

And Tahir didn't disappoint his captain.

He clean bowled struggling Shan Masood and had Misbah-ul-Haq trapped leg before wicket off a googly, while Adnan Akmal played on in the space of 11 deliveries as Pakistan stuttered to 60-6 by lunch.

He went on to clean bowl Asad Shafiq and lanky Mohammad Irfan after the break for his first five-wicket haul in 12 test matches, beating his previous best of 3-55 against Australia at Johannesburg in 2011.

"I still think I am the same bowler what I was for the last five years," he said.

"It just depends, when things clicked for you, everything goes in your way."

Tahir gave credit to Steyn and Philander for pinning down the Pakistan batsmen early on, describing them as being among "the best bowlers in world cricket." Steyn got rid of first test centurion Khurram Manzoor off the second ball of the match and Philander gave away only nine runs in his spell of five overs.

"We never had doubt ... we can bowl any team out on any day and that is what happened today," Tahir said. "They started the tone and I just chipped in."