'I've got no history on my back' - Steyn
Dale Steyn is the reigning ICC Test Player of the Year and judging by his efforts at the MCG it is a title he won't be giving up easily. Steyn has produced the performance of his career to drive South Africa within sight of a Test victory that would not only take them one win away from the No. 1 ranking, but would hand Australia their first home series defeat since 1992-93.
Already a hero with the bat, thanks to his 76 on the third day, Steyn added five wickets on the fourth day to go with his five in the first innings to give the South African batsmen a less than imposing target of 183.
When Steyn ran off the ground after having Peter Siddle caught behind to close Australia's innings, he was so energetic it was hard to believe he had spent the best part of two days on the field.
"The guys have got the sniff of achieving something and creating some history here," Steyn said after South Africa finished the day at 0 for 30, with 153 more required. "Everybody is very excited."
South Africa began the tour facing inevitable questions over their past failures against Australia but the Perth chase provided some unambiguous answers. Steyn said there was no chance the young side would be overawed at the prospect of beating Australia in a series at home for the first time.
"I've only played two Test matches against Australia so I've got no history that is on my back," Steyn said. "Many of the guys that are on this tour have also never lost to Australia. There's a fresh breed of players out here that are not really worried about the history. We're more worried about the way that we play cricket and what we've come to achieve on this tour and how we're going to get there."
Thanks to Steyn, "how we're going to get there" is now not a complicated route. He became the second South African after Fanie de Villiers to take ten wickets and score a half-century in a Test and it was an individual effort that he described as "leaps and bounds" above anything else he had achieved.
His previous two ten-wicket hauls came against New Zealand last November and it led into 2008 where Steyn has been the world's leading wicket-taker with 74 victims at 20.01. Finishing the year with his best match figures was still sinking in after stumps.
"This is big," Steyn said. "Coming into Australia and being able to do that against an Australian side is just fantastic. I always said before I came down here that I've achieved some terrific things that I've taken some good wickets against teams, I wouldn't say the minnows, but the lower order as rankings go.
"A Test wicket is still a Test wicket … but to be able to do it against the No. 1 team in the world in their backyard is something that I've only dreamt of. It probably will only really hit me tonight."
Steyn bowled fast and with impressive outswing, and while he picked up three batsmen caught behind the wicket, he was surprised to have also made breakthroughs with deliveries that were not necessarily his best. He said the aggressive Australian batting approach meant a bowler never knew when his next strike would come.
"The way that the Aussies play, they really like to have the scoreboard ticking over and like to see boundaries flow and they've got those kind of players," he said. "Even though you're going at four an over you always feel like there's a chance is going to come somewhere along the line. Build up enough pressure, even with an old ball, and a bad shot will come along the way."
Provided his batting team-mates don't copy Australia's approach, Tuesday should be a history-making day for South Africa and the Test Player of the Year might just have toppled the world's No. 1 team.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo