New Zealand v South Africa 2011-12 March 1, 2012

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Grant on March 3, 2012, 2:41 GMT

    @Jonesy2: The aussie answer to life, the universe and SA bowling is... 47. If you are Sri Lankan, the answer is... 43. Remember this as motivation as AUS plays Sri Lanka in the ODI finals: They collapsed in a slightly more sorry heap than OZ against the mighty SA pace attack.

  • Nathan on March 3, 2012, 0:24 GMT

    1 for 37 in small New Zealand ground is a good results. At 140 plus speed even a small deviation/mishit and a misfield will get a boundary.

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2012, 20:30 GMT

    deadly bowler, unplayable!!

  • Ian on March 2, 2012, 20:29 GMT

    Steyn is poetry in motion, love watching him bowl.

  • Evan on March 2, 2012, 19:13 GMT

    Lol, jonesy2 is funny, excellent comedic timing

  • Dummy4 on March 2, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    @Jonesy: The ability to not constantly be injured. It's quite useful I've heard.

    The one thing not mentioned in the article is that after these five the quality drops precipitously: who's next in line at test level? Kleinveldt? Any of the Free State's Vd Wath/McLaren/Friend/Du Preez; Shezi? Consistent at domestic level, but not sure international batsmen will be that saddened to have to face any of them

  • Priyashrav on March 2, 2012, 15:30 GMT

    @Jonsey2 Steyn is obviously the major difference between the two attacks! Until Aus find someone who performs over the world with such consistency as Steyn has,SA will be the one who can claim to have a better attack!

  • Kevin on March 2, 2012, 5:58 GMT

    Bowling against the NZ black-caps is hardly "hunting", its more like collecting the free gifts on offer. I predict our top order will not get starts in the tests like they did in the one dayers. Will be very surprised if we get 300+ in any innings, and equally surprised if we bowl SA out for less than 300 in any innings given the bowling attack that has been selected. Brent Arnell again, you gotta be kidding? This guy wouldn't even make the Zimbabwe team. Look for SA to score 600+ for 3 or 4, then bowl NZ out twice with ease in every test. It should be morbidly fascinating if nothing else. If our boys take any test into the fifth day, that will be a victory in itself, but I won't be putting money on it.

  • Bertus on March 2, 2012, 2:07 GMT

    Growing up in South Africa in the late eighties/early nineties, I watched and tried emulating Allan Donald in both bowling action and his professional approach to the game of cricket.

    Just as Steyn now, Donald used to be an excellent fielder (in an era where fast bowlers were just lazing around the boundary and doing foot-stops), doing running and diving catches in the outfield.

    My message to youngsters in SA and around the world is that you want to emulate someone or just copy a bowling action, you don't have to look further than Dale Steyn. The record speaks for itself!

  • Johan on March 1, 2012, 18:48 GMT

    I would like to see a top performance from the Proteas in the last ODI, dead rubbers have always just drift out of their grasp and they pickup a silly loose... Your are having it a bit lean in the wickets column Dale, but I am sure that part of your bowling partners success is the frustration of not scoring at a proper rate against you, hunting in a pack, IS the name of the game! I like very much what you guys are doing thus far, have fun and bring us some silverware back home! Go the Flower Power!

  • No featured comments at the moment.