Steyn v Anderson: Stop the fight?

2015-06-10 20:09
Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Amidst some understandable fanfare in his home country, strike bowler James Anderson recently became the first Englishman to advance to 400 Test wickets.

He ended the second and final home Test against New Zealand (a series shared 1-1) with 403 scalps, having reached the 400 landmark in that Headingley tussle - his 104th appearance for England.

It also made him the 10th fastest bowler of all time to reach 400 in match terms, only marginally behind the lone South African thus far, the retired Shaun Pollock (103 games to the landmark) in ninth.

But next month a certain Dale Steyn looks well set to bust into the “400 club” as well, and probably do so in spectacular second position in stealth terms behind Sri Lankan legend Muttiah Muralitharan (72 Tests); he would also become just the 13th cricketer in history to reach the figure regardless of time taken to achieve it.

Steyn requires four wickets to reach 400 from his current 396 secured in 78 Tests, and if he gets that tally in his 79th - the first of two clashes with Bangladesh in Chittagong, from July 21-25 - will force New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee down to third as he needed 80 Tests to get there.

The portents seem pretty good for the Phalaborwa Express, as the last and only previous time he played a Test there, in 2008, he earned match figures of seven for 101 in a huge Proteas win and is generally very comfortable bowling in the unfavourable conditions of the Subcontinent.

At the same time, he would only re-emphasise the statistical dominance he commands over Anderson, whose Test career has roughly paralleled his as they are only a year or so apart in age - Steyn will turn 32 later this month and his English rival 33 in July.

The issue has attracted great prominence over the last couple of years, given that current England captain Alastair Cook is just one of several prominent people from those shores to have contended that Anderson is at least the equal of Steyn.

Former England bowling coach David Saker in 2013 even described Anderson as “the most skilful (Test) bowler in the world”.

There is very little statistical ammunition, however, to back up Saker’s belief, not least the most trusted and powerful yardstick of all - a bowler’s average.

Here Steyn continues to hold the aces in a major way, his career Test average standing at 22.55 whilst Anderson’s has dipped a tad to 29.42 after the New Zealand mini-series in which he averaged a fairly costly 43.

Anderson does continue to hold a slight edge for economy, as his rate stands at 3.05, compared with Steyn’s 3.25.

But in reaching the previous major Test wickets landmark - 300 - Steyn was joint third-quickest of all time there, whereas Anderson came in joint-22nd.

As for the 200 milestone, the South African was fourth swiftest to it, and Anderson joint-48th.

In Chittagong next month, Steyn ought to deliver another heavy statistical punch at the expense of “Jimmy” Anderson, reaching 400 wickets in a whole 25 Tests fewer than it took the man from Burnley.

It would almost seem a good reason to call off the bout, wouldn’t it?

Both are magnificent bowlers and competitors. Only Steyn simply continues to deliver better numbers ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  dale steyn  |  cricket

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