Cape Town – Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee … the proudly South
African Dale Steyn isn’t in the habit of talking up Australians excessively,
but those are his firm picks as fast bowlers from Down Under who he most
Speaking to Sport24 in his capacity as a Nissan Brand
Ambassador in Johannesburg a few days ago, the Proteas spearhead – reinstalled as
No 1-ranked Test bowler in the world – was visibly excited about locking horns
with the Baggy Greens in their own backyard again during November.
He has sampled series triumph in each of his two prior tours
there, and says a third would be “something as high up as winning a World Cup”.
But he is also prepared to acknowledge Australian brilliance
down the years and, when asked if there was one speedster from any period in
that country’s history he most idolised, he asked for a licence to extend it.
“Can I go two? I’d say Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath. I just
loved watching both of those guys. They were simply class acts.
“Watching Glenn master the difficult (needs) of Test
cricket, it was ridiculous. Then ‘Binga’ (Lee) … I think of him in ODIs, the
way he ran in, constantly trying to fire it at 155km/h; how difficult that is
on the body.
“To have the strike rate he had in one-day cricket … I just
loved watching everything about him. Those two guys had everything I wanted to
bring into my game; played a big role in the way I operate.
“I guess I have blended the two in my game – just as locally
I have strived to be a combo of Shaun Pollock with his accuracy and Allan
Donald for pace.
“I want batsmen to know that I can bowl at 150; it’s in me.
But then they must also know they can’t go anywhere: I am going to stay here
all day long, tempting you until I get your wicket … it’s nice to be able to do
Although there have been many other definitive Tests from the
Phalaborwa Express, keen Steyn-watchers are especially unlikely to ever forget
his rare, dual-role magic in a famous, series-clinching second Test triumph
over the Aussies at Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2008/09.
It will probably be the only Test Steyn ever plays at the
MCG, given that the huge venue was bypassed on the 2012/13 venture and again
misses out this season, but he bagged five wickets in each Aussie innings then
and just as memorably registered a career-best 76 in a game-turning
ninth-wicket stand of 180 with JP Duminy.
He admits it was a special Test match for him: “It probably
doesn’t get better than that, for sure. I still can’t help thinking ‘aagh, 24
runs short (of a first-time century)’. Still, I definitely think there are
games where I have bowled better and come out with less reward, you know.
“But when you look at that match … at the end of the day,
the team won the game and the series, I got ten-for, scored a 50 in a big
partnership … it’s going to be hard to beat a Test like that, in numbers terms.
You can never really guarantee runs, or wickets.”
Is there another 76 lurking in Steyn’s tail-end blade?
“I bloody well hope there’s a hundred in it! I’m hoping to
catch someone at the right time, and right place.
“There was a time when I was night-watchman, so my average
went down from a high of 17 to about 12 … I was facing 40 balls and getting
maybe three, but that was (the job required).
“The way I am allowed to bat nowadays, there’s a better
chance a big one might come, a century even, as it would be bound to come a lot
quicker in balls faced than if I was still the night-watchman.”
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