Steyn ready to unsettle India

2013-11-26 23:00
Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)

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 December 18.

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 now.

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 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 favour.

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 ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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