Australia in South Africa 2013-14 February 5, 2014

Steyn 'looking good' for Tests - Donald


Allan Donald, South Africa's bowling coach, has warned Australia to expect a fully-firing Dale Steyn from the first morning of the first Test of the upcoming series. Although Steyn has not bowled for five weeks, in which he was given extended rest to recover from a rib injury, Donald insisted Steyn would not require any additional time to get back into the swing things.

"We cant afford for him to ease into it. Graeme wants him to be full tilt right from the start," Donald said, after the second day's play in the tour match. Steyn bowled 8.5 overs to follow up from the three he delivered on Tuesday and came off a slightly longer run-up than the one he used on day one. Quinton de Kock, who faced Steyn early on, said initially "there was no pace there, he was just working on his areas" but Donald noted Steyn got quicker as the day went on.

Steyn got rid of the Composite XI's tail to finish with three wickets and show heartening signs that his self-belief is ballooning. "The biggest thing when you are coming back from a rib injury is confidence," Donald said. "You do feel hesitant at first. You need to get back that confidence in getting through your action. But for a guy who hasn't bowled a ball in a month, Dale is looking good."

Although Donald called Steyn a "freakish sort of guy" who can "slot straight back in" after a layoff, he also said Steyn, like any other bowler, needs to work his way back by slowly increasing his load. "Every day he needs to build," he said.

The comeback should be declared complete on Thursday. Donald said Steyn will have one more spell and promised it will be a nasty one. "He will be bowling quicker, running in harder off a nice long run up with full momentum," he said. "That will give him that confidence and form that you take into a massive series."

South Africa need Steyn at his best because he will be the spearhead in what has been dubbed a battle of the bowlers, which Donald expects to be as explosive as it sounds. "Michael Clarke has every right to say he rates his attack No.1 because what a hell of a performance over five Tests," he said, referring to Australia's Ashes triumph.

"They're a good attack, they showed that against England. They have got variation in their attack and so have we. That's where it will be fantastic viewing from the side to see how these guys match up against each other."

Steyn's direct competitor, especially where pace and the label leader of the attack lies, is Mitchell Johnson, who will enjoy the knowledge that four of South Africa's Test batsmen, including Alviro Petersen and Graeme Smith twice, were dismissed by left-armers in the ongoing warm-up match. Donald called Johnson's recent form the "best I have seen him bowl in a very long time".

Donald was particularly impressed with the combination Johnson's speed and control. "He never gave England a sniff, he was so tight with the channels he bowled and his pace through the air," Donald said. "He softened them up with very good short balls and his follow-up balls were the ones that were very quick through the air. His overall control was the best I've seen for a while."

That type of discipline is something Donald was hoping from Wayne Parnell and he believes there was a glimpse of it in South Africa's second innings. "He showed a lot of intent. There was presence in his run up, which is important," Donald said. "I thought that stood out today, he had good pace and good control." Parnell appears the frontrunner to slot into South Africa's Test XI, which would add another speedster into what is already a cauldron of quicks.

With so much fire and brimstone in the lead-up to the series, it is easy to get carried away but Donald said South Africa are aiming for the same kind of calm they achieved when they prepared to take the Test mace off England in 2012. "There is no point jumping in with both feet down people's throats," he said, the mixed metaphor only emphasising the point. "This team doesn't stand for that. We built up very calmly towards England. And it feels exactly the same. It feel eerily the same."

Then, South Africa took a trip to Switzerland in the lead-up to the tour where they spent time with explorer Mike Horn. This time, they will spend two days in Hoedspruit, a town close to the Kruger National Park, where they will assist Mark Boucher in his mission to save the rhino. The getaway is aimed to give them perspective and when they return to fine-tune for the Test, Donald expects them, and the attack specifically, to be more than ready.

"This South African attack - from where we started our journey against England almost two years ago, to where we are now - we've got what it takes to deliver. We know what we stand for, we know what to expect from each other and whenever there has been big questions asked of us in the past, someone, or the whole attack, has stepped up." Donald believes it will be more of the same again.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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  • Dummy4 on February 8, 2014, 15:55 GMT

    firstly England batting was no existent and there bowling attack was truly poor in aus , with the only bowler looking half decent being Broad and maybe stokes for a couple of spells .

    Also from reports on this website , sounds like the environment that flower and cook created in the english dressing room was not great and i think that played a major factor in how nervous and tense the players looked, which i think is evident in all the dropped catches at important stages .

    Smith always like the big occasions and always steps up during the big test occasions. Playing aussies in this series with the chance to be the first SA team to beat them in a home series since the 70's and it will be the icing on the cake for smith and the legacy he and team are trying to leave .

    it will also prove once and for all how good this SA team is . with faf having scored a decent ton in the lead up to this test will only balance the SA lineup even more added to that parnell variation . SA to win 2-0

  • Amol on February 8, 2014, 4:04 GMT

    syedharisshah: ("60 to 70 wickets left in him, that means 14 to 18 test matches,but not more than 100 wickets.") ??? I find your analysis totally pessimistic, made at a time when the bowler being commented about is CURRENTLY Ranked number one and has been so consistently and for longer stretches than anyone and whose wickets per match has been MORE than 5.0 even after playing about 70 (a big number) matches. I would rather enjoy watching Steyn play is magic TODAY than try to analysis his future in vain.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    SA vs Aus is always the best test match contest and I am hoping for 3 amazing games(and Aus to get bowled out for less than 47 again:)). IMO, yes Aus bowling attack is very good but SA is the best. And playing Aus is an enough reason for Steyn to be at his best. Where SA hold the edge is home conditions and definitely a better batting side. Amla and ABD are the key players here and If either of JP/Faf score atlst one ton, the series will be in the bag. 2-1 to SA.

  • Dummy4 on February 7, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    lets just hope the rain stays away on what could be a fantastic series, Cricket Australia has had a lot of international cricket of late but not much centre cricket over in SA at the moment, here's hoping for a full series and an aussie victory

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 12:50 GMT

    I do think Johnson and co will cause trouble, evidently SA struggled against a raw paksitani bowling line up who are not bad but nowhere as good as the aussie and SA attack who look more accomplished. It will be an even contest, on paper obviously SA have the advantage but this AUS side have revamped themselves.

  • Altaf on February 6, 2014, 11:40 GMT

    Wish Duminy not in playing in tests until something goes desperate. Failure at critical situations cost them a lot in both, Tests and ODIs. 1-2 good innings not enough to be on top, consistency is the must. Amazed, Tahir not even deserved reserve place.

  • Dummy4 on February 6, 2014, 11:21 GMT

    I remember watching a program of the ashes where Rob Key the former English batsman rated Mitchell Johnson as the most dangerous fast bowler in the world on current form. That was his bowling in the Ashes. We still have to figure out how he will bowl against better batsmen than the English and with the weight of expectations that will be on him . I feel the australian batting is weak and a lot will depend on Clarke , Warner , Rogers and Haddin . Watson must deliver some time and I expect Hughes to play if australlia lose the first test. One exceptional performance by one batsman can tilt the tide as it will be a close series with two top class bowling units. Steyn may need match fitness and may take some time to be at top speed and fitness. Great series in the offing. Ramanujam sridhar

  • Basil on February 6, 2014, 8:53 GMT

    This is difference between SA and Aussies; the bowling attack. India struggled to score above 3 runs per over. I dont think the AUS batsman will be that patient.

    I will not be surprised if the Aussies are skittled out for less then 150 per innings

  • Herman on February 6, 2014, 6:51 GMT

    @redneck and vice versa.. Lara made the aussies cry with his MASSIVE scores against them as well. And Steyn in tandem with Philander has also given the aussies a few nightmares..

    I do agree with you that the aussies in the nineties and 2000's are probably the best team but THAT West Indies team of the 80's was incredible. And also don't forget the South African side of the late 60's early 70's. They both whipped the aussies a few times like the aussies whipped them later on.

  • Jaydeep on February 6, 2014, 3:15 GMT

    @Beertjie: Hm, point taken. And Mitch was indeed played with a fair bit of confidence by Stokes & co. towards the end of the summer in Oz... to a degree in the last couple of Tests, more so in the sole ODI he played at Perth where his figures were not too special. You may attribute that to increasing familiarity with his bowling or to a lack of match-practice - though imo his mojo really lies in his Movember 'tache, which he'd shaved off by the time the Perth ODI came around. As some of the others here have opined, I too am not sure what his chances against AB are. However, regarding Mitch vs. Smith, I think he does have an advantage considering he's broken Smith's hand twice.

    I just wish both Pat Cummins and Marchant De Lange were around for this series. De Lange roughed up the visiting Aussies quite a bit in a practice match last time around if I remember right, and Cummins of course gave the usually unflappable Kallis, among others, a torrid time...

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