Cape Town – Dale Steyn surplus to further Proteas
requirements? Steady, now.
Events at the Wanderers over the last few days, I would
argue, did more rather than less – even as he was a personal absentee from
activity – to remind of his ongoing credentials for Test duty.
The national side suffered their first Test defeat in six
under new coach Ottis Gibson, as India clinched the dead-rubber, controversial
final Test in Johannesburg to pull back to a more respectable 2-1 series
Almost inevitably, some observers on social media and
elsewhere seem to have convinced themselves, following the great fast bowler’s
deeply frustrating heel-injury setback in the much earlier Newlands clash with the
Indians, that the Phalaborwa Express should consider slipping into the sunset.
But anyone who knows how determinedly he rehabbed from his far
more serious, long-term right shoulder injury, however, will also be aware of
just how desperately he wishes to return to consistent top-flight activity for
This is not too difficult an anatomical observation: the
heel is a very long way from the shoulder, and it was largely rotten luck that
Steyn fell foul of worn footmarks in the first Test at Newlands, meaning that
he is likely to only recover in time for the four-Test series against Australia
Up to that point, he had ironically gone a notably long way
to subduing doubts about his return, at the age of 34, to the Test cause.
Steyn almost rolled the clock back to his heyday in the
Newlands Test, contributing as fulsomely and incisively as any pace colleague
(17.3 overs, and 2/51) in the Indian first innings, before his mishap deprived
him of a second-dig bowl.
In short, it was a major step forward in his
“reannouncement”, never mind the unrelated setback that then laid him low for
the remainder of the series.
He was missed at the Bullring, especially, on a surface that
was overly untrustworthy to batsmen – to the point of danger, and
near-abandonment – and would have made the vastly experienced customer a real
As SuperSport commentator and former Proteas captain and
strike colleague Shaun Pollock lamented at an advanced stage of the Wanderers
Test: “(Steyn) cleans up tails, gets reverse (swing) … he bowls the right
lengths according to conditions.”
He was suggesting, by extension, that Steyn would have been
in business to a pivotal degree had he been in the line-up there.
Pollock, now just two wickets superior to Steyn as South
Africa’s all-time leading Test wicket-taker on 421, also reminded of his own
playing-era motto as he watched the South African attack struggle for
consistency in both lines and lengths during the Indian second knock: “Give
them nothing for free.”
In spite of conditions that made both pressure-building and
regular striking extremely favourable, few of the five-strong SA quickies
chosen at the Wanderers reached best and most discipline-conscious standards as
India crucially piled up the match’s premier total (247) in the third innings –
a little against expectations by then.
Steyn is traditionally not renowned for wastage of
deliveries and he was already exercising promising levels of control in his
Newlands comeback, albeit so short of a proper prior gallop at first-class
His showing there was probably enough to convince those who
steadfastly appreciate his numerous bowling qualities and general competitive
juices that he will comfortably warrant a place – fitness allowing - in the
Proteas’ plans for the four-Test challenge from arch-foes Australia.
Certainly head coach Ottis Gibson didn’t sound, post-match,
as though he was ready to write off Steyn for future use, despite his saga of
recent – he was once blissfully injury-free a lot of the time – interruptions.
Gibson was quoted as saying: “In the period that he played,
he was back to his best … and (then) he got an unfortunate injury.”
It was an apt enough appraisal …*Follow
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing