SA in Sri Lanka

Steyn switches VIP clubs

2014-07-18 21:36
Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Goodbye Waqar Younis, Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh ... hello Dennis Lillee, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev.

As it WILL happen: Sri Lanka v South Africa - Day 4

As it happened: Sri Lanka v South Africa - Day 3

That is the situation for Proteas strike bowler Dale Steyn as he swaps membership of one elite statistical club for another by advancing to 23 five-wicket hauls in Test cricket on Friday.

The Phalaborwa Express, bristling with consistent intent and pace on a less-than-helpful Galle pitch, went further than most – not exactly an unfamiliar trend – to placing South Africa in the driving seat after day three of the first Test against Sri Lanka with his latest “five-for”.

He entered the Test (his 73rd) alongside the illustrious enough quartet of first-mentioned names on 22 such achievements; now he’s sharing cigars with Aussie pace legend Lillee and two magical all-rounders in Imran (Pakistan) and Kapil (India).

Cranking up to 23 hauls also puts him among the top 10 of all-time for that particular bowling landmark, as he and the other three jointly occupy 10th.

Of the new group he’s rubbing shoulders with, only Lillee got there in fewer bowling innings – 128 to Steyn’s 137.

At a recently-turned 31, Steyn is the only still-active Test player among the top echelon, which gives him plenty of opportunities to swell his tally and climb further notches – next in his sights will be England icon of the very early 20th century Sydney Barnes (alone on 24 five-wicket hauls).

The pack is headed with outrageous ease by Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who bagged 67 such hauls in an 18-year career that also saw him top the all-time wickets pile with 800.

Second - though as many as 30 adrift on 37 - is Aussie leg-spinner Shane Warne.

If Steyn wants to become the fast bowler with the most five-fors in history, he will need a further 14 – tall order, but perhaps not completely beyond him? - to eclipse New Zealand’s Sir Richard Hadlee, who is just behind Warne in third spot on 36.

There are no immediate threats to Steyn among other current cricketers: the nearest to him is Sri Lanka’s left-arm spinner Rangana Herath (17 five-fors), playing in the same Test at present as Steyn is.

Not working in Herath’s favour to threaten Steyn’s territory is the fact that he is five years older than the South African, at a veteran 36.

Closest compatriots to Steyn on the list are SA’s bowling coach Allan Donald (20) and Makhaya Ntini (18).

Considering how well he has bowled in Sri Lanka’s first innings at Galle (the hosts are 172 runs behind with one wicket remaining), it is tempting to think that with reverse swing already present and likely to only increase as the pitch wears, the “Steyn Remover” may have a shout at earning a sixth analysis of 10 wickets or more in a match.

The one source of consternation for Proteas fans was seeing him seemingly aggravate a bruised hand problem while fielding just before Friday’s close.

Play resumes at 06:30 SA time on Saturday.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Dale Steyn celebrates (Gallo Images)

Read more on:    sa in sl  |  rob houwing  |  cricket

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