Enjoy Steyn ... while you still can

2016-11-03 10:14
Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Australian batsmen emphasised in the media leading up to the first Test match this week that they fear and remain wary of Proteas spearhead Dale Steyn.

South Africa’s interim captain Faf du Plessis has said multiple times that Steyn will be crucial and could be the deciding factor on whether his charges win or lose the series.

“When Dale gets that red ball in his hand he’s just a different bowler... Dale Steyn will be the guy to make or break that for us. I’m confident he will have a good series,” enthused Du Plessis.

While my suspicion remains that Steyn isn’t quite at his best going into it, it is evident that both sides realise what a key figure he could be over the three Tests.

In the previous Australian-staged series, Steyn took 12 wickets, which resulted in him ending off his 2012/13 season with a productive wicket tally of 45.

He capitalised on his form in the following years, but the wickets soon fell away in 2015 where Steyn suffered a groin strain, which left him kicking his heels - not a favourite characteristic for such a full-blooded competitor - for the majority of the 2015/16 season.

This year he made a fine comeback in the hasty spring Test series against New Zealand and did not disappoint with the ball, by taking 10 wickets.

He seemed to be slowly getting back into his much-vaunted rhythm, but then the ODI series came along, where Steyn struggled at home and was unusually expensive even in the praiseworthy SA whitewash of the tourists.

Which only brings us back to what Du Plessis says: “When Dale gets the red ball in his hand he’s just a different bowler.”

I concur with that - Tests have hugely been Steyn’s forte, which is why he ruled the roost as No 1 on the planet for quite some time.

He is aggressive, he produces early swing and can reverse a worn-out ball - you can always back him to go hard in an hour of need.

Leading up to the first Test match in Perth, he was six enticing wickets away from overtaking Shaun Pollock (421) as South Africa's leading Test wicket-taker of all-time. Legendary doesn't even begin to describe him.

Steyn’s record in Australia is almost as good as anywhere else after having played six Tests there; he has taken 30 wickets at an average of 28.03 (whereas overall his average sits at 22.24).

The famous pace and bounce of the WACA has seen Steyn take 11 wickets in his two encounters.

Over in Adelaide, the paceman has only played once - in 2012 - and took four wickets at an average of 32.25.

Despite being a Test veteran for over 12 years, Steyn will do something different this time around, by running in with a pink ball and under lights at the Adelaide Oval - a fitting new challenge for him this late in his career.

Whether he can produce the same magic with a different ball, we’ll have to wait and see later in the month.

At 33, this might well be Steyn’s final tour to Australia, with the Future Tours Programme suggesting a November 2018 return to Down Under. By then he’ll be 35, and his body still being up to the rigours of Tests is far from guaranteed.

My suggestion, over the next few weeks, would simply be to enjoy him while you can ... a good few Australians may even generously join that appreciation society.

Read more on:    proteas  |  dale steyn  |  cricket

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