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January 12, 2010
Dale Steyn believes that the departure of Makhaya Ntini from South Africa's Test team has been the making of his new new-ball partner, Morne Morkel, who has been one of the outstanding players of the series so far, claiming 12 wickets at 25.83 with his unsettling pace and bounce from a good length.
Though he's been a fixture of South Africa's Test side for two years, Morkel has only recently allied a disciplined line and length to his natural fast bowler's attributes of height and speed, and he has been notably successful against England's captain, Andrew Strauss, whom he has dismissed in each of the three Tests to date.
"He's been around for a long time, but Morne has taken that shift up since Makhaya has left the side," said Steyn. "He's had to step up to the plate and he did that in Cape Town, taking five in the first innings, then bowling together in partnership with me in the second.
"That's a great step-up for Morne, and it will do massively for his confidence because he's always had that ability, but he needed that push and with somebody like Makhaya being away, his career is really going to kick-start going forward. In the past he was able to relax and rely on guys like Jacques Kallis and myself to do the main work, now he has to lead the attack with myself being the two senior guys."
However, Steyn does not believe that South Africa has seen the last of Ntini, whose appearance at Durban was the 101st Test of his 12-year career. "Makhaya still is fantastic," he said. "He probably lost a little bit of edge going into the series, but everyone loses a bit of edge at times in their career.
"But that's not to say it is the end of his career," Steyn added. "He took five wickets for the Warriors against the Eagles last week, and I'm sure he will be back. He needs to make sure his head is in a good space, because I'm sure the selectors won't be leaving him out for the India tour coming up, and the Twenty20 World Cup going forward.
"Makhaya has been a great bowler for South Africa for many years," Steyn added. "I have learnt so much from him, and words can't explain what he brings to the side."
For the time being, however, there will be a new face in the South Africa line-up at Johannesburg. Following Friedel de Wet's withdrawal with a back injury, the 20-year-old left-arm seamer, Wayne Parnell, is set to make his debut, and Steyn for one is looking forward to seeing how he takes to Test cricket.
"Wayne is a good prospect, everyone loves a left-arm quick because they offer something different," he said. "He's skiddy and quick, almost a mirror image of myself coming from the other end, and he swings the ball nicely as he's shown in the one-day games.
"He's a fantastic find for South African cricket because we haven't had a lot of left-arm quicks around of late. He has a bright future ahead of him, and if he can bring his one-day form into the longer version he could be in the side for a long time."
What's wrong with their cricket? Well, what isn't?