Cape Town - It may well be a bad omen for India that Dale Steyn
is in a rich little vein of form in one-day international cricket.
The limited-overs game, after all, has traditionally not
been his best suit even if there have always been plenty of occasions when he
has been effective in it.
So if he is on notable song in that environment, it
presumably bodes well for his prospects of excelling in the short but seismic Test
series against the touring Indians next month, starting at the Wanderers on
Steyn remains the gold-medal holder, as it were, in the
five-day landscape, a situation unaltered for some time even if compatriot
Vernon Philander is pretty hot on his heels in the ICC Test bowler rankings
Touch wood, South African fans will be saying, the
Phalaborwa Express is keeping a series of niggles – fast bowlers’ near-eternal
lot in life – reasonably firmly at bay.
It certainly looks that way, even if there is talk on www.espncricinfo.com that he has a
slightly sore back and might just be a precautionary, rotational absentee for
the second ODI against Pakistan in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday (10:00 start).
Then again, don’t bet against Steyn well nigh insisting on a
place at St George’s Park, at least partly motivated by the knowledge that a
Pakistani victory kills the three-match series in the visitors’ unexpected
But it may also be difficult to grab a ball out of his hand,
as it were, because he is in the midst of a determined upward curve in ODIs
that has seen him grab eight wickets – career-best 5/25 in Abu Dhabi and then 3/33
at Newlands – in successive personal appearances in the format.
That is the best two-games-on-the-trot haul he has yet
achieved, in a 76-match career thus far.
Steyn comfortably bowled deliveries around the 145km/h mark
at Newlands, where South Africa lost the first ODI on Sunday primarily due to
their batting worryingly stuttering again in pursuit of only 219.
He went past the outside edge to Pakistani batsmen so often
that, frankly, he might have earned another “five-for” or even more than that.
He is also now sitting on the slightly uncomfortable
“Nelson” in ODIs, having grabbed 111 wickets in total at 27.52 and if there is
the slightest hint of superstition in him he will want to get off that figure
as quickly as possible.
Steyn just looks as though he is running, in broadest terms,
into his most champagne form as South African spearhead, which will naturally
have a great number of Indian fans nervous; they begin ODI combat against the
Proteas only five days after the Pakistan series finishes.
The 30-year-old’s bowling load, to my mind, has been just
about right in early season: he has arguably neither been under-bowled nor
over-bowled and, barring sudden mishap, will hit the ground running in the
tragically short but now necessarily intense Indian series.
And that ought to be the case whether he stays in a vest and
shorts or dons his full green kit in PE on Wednesday or not ...
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