Cape Town - The Proteas started to show signs of their world No 1-ranked muscle at last on day three of the first Test against Bangladesh at Chittagong on Thursday.
If anything, there is a case for saying that after playing surprise second fiddle in the first half of the contest, Hashim Amla’s troops have commendably snatched pole position for the business end of it.
It was still less than ideal that they allowed the minnows - who have only ever lost each time in eight prior Tests against them, usually heavily - to command a first-innings lead of 78.
This was only the second time they have enjoyed that luxury after managing it at Dhaka by a much narrower 22 runs during a 2008 series, albeit that SA stormed back on that occasion to win by five wickets anyway.
But when bad light and a threatening storm brought play to an early close again on Thursday, a budding opening partnership of 61 between Dean Elgar and Stiaan van Zyl had reassuringly slashed the deficit to a negligible 17.
Considering that Bangladesh will have to bat last on a wearing track, any pessimists back in South Africa preparing to blast the favourites in anticipation of a shock maiden defeat may well have to crumple their notes.
Regrettably in an intriguing Test match, there is still a strong prospect that inclement weather will have the final say: days four and five, as always expected before the game even began, look seriously rain-laden if forecasters are correct.
On that note, there is the associated risk that Proteas strike bowler Dale Steyn will be left high and, er, dry on 399 Test wickets until the second and final game after grabbing three in the Bangladeshi first innings and increasingly conquering his understandable rust in the process.
Like long-time pace ally Morne Morkel, the Phalaborwa Express had not had a previous first-class bowl since the New Year Test against West Indies at Newlands - the best part of seven months back.
The other member of the established seam trio, the admirably disciplined Vernon Philander, has at least seen some service for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship this season and earned match figures of 7/103 against Somerset at Trent Bridge in his most recent “FC” fixture in mid-May.
If the surface continues to get abrasive, as it should, Steyn could roar seriously into his own for reverse swing and general destructiveness in a fourth-innings scenario, particularly if the Proteas have had enough time to compile a suitably beefy second knock.
So it may well be down to the elements, and how much further cricket they allow here, to determine whether he reaches the 400-mark in this match, and thus elbows New Zealand great Sir Richard Hadlee down to third position among quickest bowlers to that figure in Tests.
Hadlee got to 400 in his 80th Test; Steyn is still in his 79th.
Runaway leader and leading scalp-grabber of all time Muttiah Muralitharan of Sri Lanka reached the mark (exactly halfway to his eventual 800 upon retirement) in an astonishing 72 Tests.
Still, just by getting to 400 - whenever it eventually, inevitably clicks in - Steyn will become the second South African after Shaun Pollock (421 career wickets from 108 Tests) to achieve the tally.
Pollock is currently ninth fastest in history globally to 400, registered in his 103rd game against India at the Wanderers in December 2006.
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