South Africa v England, 4th Test, Johannesburg, 4th day January 17, 2010

Morkel and Steyn live up to their billing

The final Test at the Wanderers brought the thrilling combination of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel terrorising England

There is nothing more exhilarating than the sight of fast bowlers steaming in at batsmen. Raw aggression versus survival instinct; it is cricket stripped down to its most primal form and it has always been a feature of touring South Africa. The final Test at the Wanderers brought the thrilling combination of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel terrorising England and they rightly shared the Man-of-the-Match award. That the pair can forge a long partnership is a tantalising prospect for a world game shorn of high quality pace.

Steyn's position was already well established and he remains the No. 1 ranked bowler in the world. Yet he began the series with an injury and wasn't fully fit for Durban when South Africa were heavily beaten. What is more, this series was against the one Test nation he had never shown his true colours - his previous wickets against England had come at more than 40 each. It was time to put that right.

However, it is the development of Morkel that has really boosted South Africa's firepower. Someone with height and pace is an invaluable asset and it is why England, for so long, tried to be patient with Steve Harmison. During the early stages of his career Morkel was compared to Harmison after some wayward spells and a loss of confidence, but his second stint in the national side is promising riches indeed.

"England were the one side I hadn't really performed well against and really wanted to put that right," Steyn said. "After not playing at Centurion I knew I had to lift my game for the remaining three and make a massive contribution. But watching Morne bowl throughout the series has been the highlight for me. With Makhaya [Ntini] falling away Morne has stepped up and he's bowled tremendously. I think he deserves all the credit and I have actually been bowling behind him. He's been the spearhead."

Graeme Smith knows he's a fortunate captain to have such strike power at his disposal and with Wayne Parnell making an encouraging debut the loss of Ntini suddenly doesn't look so drastic for South Africa.

"Dale has performed unbelievably well for a period of time, deserves his ranking and has led our attack well," Smith said. "But the fact is that Morne came back from being left out, worked on his game and came back a far better bowler. He was able to have really good series so credit to him for that.

"Parnell is 20 and was on debut. There's a lot of learning for him to do and a lot of developing this attack needs to do. But to have two spearheads with pace and bounce, certainly on a wicket like this, does look great."

Morkel was far more modest about his achievements as he sat at the opposite end of the table to his new-ball partner. "It isn't really something I can put my finger on," he said of his improvement. "After being left out I went back and had a good look at my action. The main thing for me was to keep it simple and not confuse too many things or try too hard. I wanted to have one simple, clear goal to run up, hit the deck hard and enjoy my cricket again."

Morkel's fearsome spell of 5-2-15-3 on the fourth and final morning at the Wanderers - which included 3 for 0 in seven balls - meant he finished the series with 19 wickets at 21.47 and Steyn, despite his slow start, took 15 at 23.80. Compare that to England's two leading quicks; James Anderson managed 16 wickets at 34.25 and Stuart Broad 13 wickets at 33.46. They both performed up to their career averages, but that's the problem for England who can't find a bowler to average in the mid-20s.

Andrew Strauss said conditions were tailor-made for the South Africa pair and that they proved too good. "On wickets that have a bit of bounce and swing, that's playing into both their hands - Morkel with the bounce and Steyn with the swing. We've always felt their first spells are as good as anything you'll see in world cricket. We've always felt if you can get them into the second and third spells, things get a bit easier. But we weren't able to do that often enough without losing a number of wickets."

Team-mates believe the duo have the ability to go on and dominate the game in a similar way to Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock. "They are different sorts of bowlers to those guys, but all I can say is I'd rather be catching the ball rather than facing them," Mark Boucher said. "They still have a lot of learning to do, they are young and will learn quickly, but have the potential to be up there with the best to play the game."

That is high praise indeed, but on the evidence of recent weeks it is not misplaced.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo