Steyn hunts with the pack
There was a time in South African cricket where the bowling spotlight was occupied entirely by Dale Steyn. It probably started when New Zealand toured South Africa in the summer of 2007 and Steyn made his big splash, first by remodelling Craig Cumming's face - thanks to a fractured cheekbone - and then by taking 20 wickets in two Tests.
From that season, Steyn was among the most talked-about bowlers in world cricket. He went on to take 10-wicket hauls in Melbourne in 2008 and Nagpur in 2010, and engaged in an enthralling battle with Sachin Tendulkar at Newlands the next January. Morne Morkel contributed to some of the glory and the two formed what became known as the most-fearsome new-ball pair in the world but it was obvious Steyn was the ringmaster and Morkel his trusty aide.
Now Steyn has to share the sunshine with a clutch of his countrymen. Vernon Philander is his latest opening partner and has already hogged headlines in the home series; Morkel is coming into his own; Lonwabo Tsotsobe's reliability is being recognised; and Marchant de Lange is the man batsmen may be hiding their faces from. Steyn is still the No. 1 Test bowler but he is 16th in the ODI rankings, behind Tsotsobe and Morkel, and is happy to share the success with them.
"If Morne is picking up five wickets and Lopsy is picking up wickets, I'm not going to moan," Steyn said. "I'm happy. I know if I just keep doing this somewhere along the line I will get a performance that comes my way."
Steyn joined up with the squad for the ODI leg of the tour and has played the first two matches of the series. His return in both was identical - 1 for 37 - and he has looked every bit as dangerous as always, although he said he is still finding his rhythm. He called his first ball of the tour, a late away-swinger at top speed a "jetlag delivery" but said he has been putting in some of his most focused preparation as he continues to spearhead the attack.
"AB wants to me to strike all the time and that's what's I am doing. I am trying," Steyn said. "I haven't found the edge. I've gone past the bat countless number of times in the last two games. I've gone back and watched my performances and said where can I make it better? But when you are getting 1 for 37 in a one-day game, there's not much to complain about. That doesn't happen often for strike bowlers, they should be going at six [runs per over], attacking more and so on but I am quite happy with what's happening."
Steyn is known to take a bit of time to find his best form but the scheduling of international cricket has meant that he cannot play every match. He was rested for the last two of the five ODIs against Sri Lanka, once the series had been won, and the three T20Is against New Zealand.
South Africa's management seem to be planning it so he will peak in the Tests but Steyn said is being careful not to think that far ahead. "My mind is firmly on the last one-day game," he said. "It's fair to say that as South Africans, in the past we've been known to wrap up series and then take our foot off the pedal for the last two games and that's speaking quite critically of our team. We want to win three-nil."
The series has already been sealed in South Africa's favour so the dead rubber match could hardly be described as crucial but Steyn said it will play a vital part in the context of the tour as a whole. "We're looking at the future and it comes down to crunch games. This could be the type of game that could be a crunch game for us. Rather than letting the momentum slip away into the Test series, we want to make a proper dent."
With New Zealand already disappointed, even demoralised, South Africa have already made significant inroads into their hosts' mindsets. The rest of the work remains to be done on the pitch. New Zealand have begun preparing more seamer friendly wickets for their four-pronged pace attack and Steyn said if that trend continues, the South Africans will be equally well accommodated. "The way the wickets have played here so far, there's been a bit of pace and bounce in them and if the Test wickets are the same we could cause quite a stir," Steyn said, before concluding with a little cheek. "Like we've done so far."
Edited by Alan Gardner
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent