Cape Town – The still generously-stocked Dale Steyn fan club has reason to celebrate.
Their favourite fast bowler became, over the weekend, the first player in the latest edition of the Mzansi Super League to reach double figures for wickets grabbed (now 10).
It is true that the achievement needs to be put in some perspective.
His outfit, the Cape Town Blitz, have played more matches (six) than four of the other teams, and been less affected than any for washouts/abandonments … none in their case, whereas the luckless Durban Heat and Tshwane Spartans, for example, have only completed two of five scheduled fixtures each so far because of weather-related intrusions.
But it’s still a nice little feather to place in a cap, and Steyn devotees will be delighted that the charismatic, gutsy 36-year-old is the one to have hit the landmark first.
Steyn sports those 10 scalps at an average of 19.20 and acceptable enough economy rate of exactly eight runs to the over; he has been encouragingly consistent in the strike column, bagging two wickets or more in four of his half-dozen outings and not yet being pasted for 40 runs or more in a single game.
More importantly, he seems increasingly trouble-free when it comes to that right bowling shoulder, major injuries to which savagely curtailed two or three years of his activity for the Proteas when he was still not far off his most glittering prime.
He has been pushing through his quicker deliveries with promising venom, rhythm and penetration, while also showing an increasing willingness to resort to cunning and guile – slower balls and the like – as the Blitz’s spearhead.
As things stand, and against the odds to some people’s way of thinking, he looks an attractive, seriously street-wise candidate (remember, there are fewer and fewer of those on the current, uncertain SA scene) for inclusion in the Proteas’ plans for the ICC T20 World Cup, now only some 10 or 11 months away in Australia.
In what would probably be a fitting enough last hurrah for him in a national-team context, the great multi-format fast bowler – he will be 37 then – simultaneously could have a final crack at elusive ICC white-ball tournament silverware.
While the considerably younger Junior Dala (nine T20 international caps) is breathing right down Steyn’s neck in the MSL with nine wickets at 17.66 - though travelling at a more expensive 9.35 - national team cross-format pace allies like Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi are struggling to really announce themselves in this year’s Mzansi.
Rabada has five wickets at a bloated 36.40, and Ngidi three at 24.00, though in fairness to the latter, he has only had three bowling outings at this point, so half Steyn’s opportunities.
If the Proteas were playing a T20 international tomorrow – they won’t be until the later part of England’s major tour here this summer - Steyn would be pretty close to a shoe-in.
Apart from his enormously distinguished stats in the other brands of international cricket, the Phalaborwa Express has 44 T20 caps for South Africa (the last against Sri Lanka at Centurion in March, when he quickly rocked their top order) and 61 scalps at an average of 17.50 … plus a glowing economy rate of 6.79.
He simply isn’t looking like someone ready to be put out to pasture.
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