Cape Town – Dale Steyn, still the world’s No 1-ranked Test
bowler, fittingly ought to reach his 300-wicket milestone at the home ground of
his domestic franchise the Cape Cobras here over New Year.
Newlands stages the first domestic Test match of the summer
from January 2-6, the opener of two contests with New Zealand, and the
Phalaborwa Express, assuming he is fit for it, needs the relative formality of
one scalp to reach 300 in his 61st five-day appearance for the
The word “formality” is used because Steyn has only ever
once before gone wicketless in a Test match – and that was probably only
because he very unusually succumbed to injury after bowling just 10 overs
against India at the Wanderers in December 2006.
The tourists humbled their more fancied hosts by 123 runs in
that first Test, although the Proteas did roar back to claim the series 2-1.
If Steyn does achieve the feat in traditionally the most
iconic and best-attended Test match of the local season, he will draw level
with the illustrious names of Richard Hadlee (New Zealand) and Malcolm Marshall
(West Indies) as third fastest to 300.
The record is still held by Australian pace legend Dennis
Lillee, who got there in 56 Tests, with Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan next
Meanwhile Steyn has drawn special praise from Mark Nicholas,
the English host of Channel 9’s cricket coverage in Australia, who also spent
time among the SuperSport commentators during South Africa’s 1-0 series triumph
Down Under recently.
Writing a series summary on the Cricinfo website, the former
Hampshire captain said Aussie skipper Michael Clarke would have known as the
teams entered the decisive Perth Test that “key members of the opposition had
air left in their lungs ... first among them was Steyn”.
Nicholas enthused: “(Steyn is) a bowler of such excellence
that when the force is with him events will invariably turn the way of his
“As at The Oval last July, Steyn chose the second morning of
a crucial Test to cast his spell.
“Sprinting to the wicket with unparalleled zeal, releasing
the ball from a perfect wrist position and following through with the skip and
commitment of a Springbok outwitting its hunter, the world’s finest fast bowler
accounted for David Warner before the first ad break, nightwatchman Nathan Lyon
before the cappuccinos and Clarke before drinks.
“Few bowlers can do this – change the rhythm of a match so
quickly and conclusively.
“One who could was looking on and purring approval: the best
of Steyn is not far from Dennis Lillee, who was perhaps the best of them all.”
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