Australia in South Africa 2013-14

I can't think of cuddly bears - Steyn

A combination of having seen Mitchell Johnson destroy South Africa in the first Test, then his team-mate Morne Morkel bowl the speed of light early in the Port Elizabeth Test was just the motivation Dale Steyn needed

Firdose Moonda

February 27, 2014

Comments: 43 | Text size: A | A

Dale Steyn is pumped up after a wicket, South Africa v Australia, 2nd Test, Port Elizabeth, 4th day, February 23, 2014
'I'm not really angry, it's more like focused aggression' © Getty Images

For a game still often associated with the genteel, cricket can be quite the opposite. On one side of a white picket fence people can sit sipping tea, on the other a man can, as Dale Steyn has put it in the past, "basically kill someone legally." Not too many are interested in the first but in this series everyone is talking about the second.

The South African and Australian attacks and their two spearheads have been a microcosm for the series so far and the Mitchell Johnson-Dale Steyn contest is still wide open.

At Centurion Park, it was all Johnson. The flames from the Ashes had barely had time to cool down when he reignited them and sent the flares South Africa's way. An off-colour Steyn could only look on with self-confessed envy.

"I wasn't feeling very well but I got through that game and thought I did okay. I got the wickets that I wanted but I was nowhere near as effective as Mitchell was," Steyn admitted. "The guy just tore us up. He showed that when a bowler is in a purple patch how devastating he can really be. It was something to try and copy, I guess."

But when Steyn got to St George's Park, he was not greeted with a green-tinged pitch which offered variable bounce. Instead, what lay before him was a sluggish surface on which the ball could barely carry through to the wicketkeeper. On that dead pitch, he saw only one person draw life from it in the first innings. "Morne Morkel bowled extremely well. On a flat wicket, he was basically taking people's heads off. It's a different Morne to what we are used to," Steyn said.

The battle lines were being drafted along unexpected parameters. Instead of Johnson versus Steyn, it seemed it would be Johnson versus Morkel. Steyn could not help feeling a little left out. "It's great to watch fast bowling like that, but it's difficult. Sometimes you watch guys bowling at 150kph like Morne was, and it's something that you want to replicate," he said. "I want to do that myself. I want to lead the attack and I want to bowl 150kph but you just can't do it sometimes. Sometimes, you push your body and you can't, and often when you push too hard you bowl a lot slower than you want to bowl."

That may have been what fuelled Steyn's fire; the one Graeme Smith described as going from "very angry to extremely angry," but Steyn played down the rage factor. Overall, he said, he just tries to up his concentration, even if looks a little like a stage act from the outside. "I'm not really angry, it's more like focused aggression," he said.

With Steyn seething, even if he did not say so himself, and South Africa aging the ball quickly (and legally), his main weapon was being sharpened. Reverse swing plus a pumped-up Steyn and South Africa did not need much else. "I've got to be in that state of mind to be able to produce spells like that. If I was running in thinking of cuddly bears, I would be dishing out half volleys and hamburgers for guys to smash," he said. "I've got to get myself into a fight - not necessarily go down and abuse the batsmen on the other end but I've got to get my body ready for a fight."

I've got to be in that state of mind to be able to produce spells like that. If I was running in thinking of cuddly bears, I would be dishing out half volleys and hamburgers for guys to smash

He started winning the fight when he had Michael Clarke caught at second slip and brought out the chainsaw in celebration. It was vicious, it was violent and it looked a little manic, but that's Dale Steyn. "I feel like when I am doing that I have these expression on my face and my veins are popping out and my celebrations - that's when I am performing at my best," he said. "It's a little bit embarrassing when I am watching it on the news, but when I am doing it I am producing results."

With the next ball, Steven Smith was out lbw and the two overs later Brad Haddin was beaten by what may be remembered as the ball of the match. It dipped in and swung late to crack his middle stump in two. "When the ball is reversing like that, you can get anyone out," Steyn said. "If you're not moving your feet and you're not ready for what's coming, it's going to get you out."

Australia are trying to get ready for a repeat by preparing for reverse-swing in Cape Town. Their bowlers roughed up a practice ball on concrete during Thursday's practice session to try and generate as much reverse as possible and give the batsmen practice ahead of the series-decider. "They probably should have done that before the game in PE," Steyn joked.

"You have to prepare. I think that's what happened to us at SuperSport Park. We knew what was coming but once we faced it - the short balls and the aggression - once we knew what it was about, we could prepare better for it. They've had two Tests against us, they know what we are about so they'll be a lot more prepared for this Test."

With the dress rehearsals over and both sides equally well acquainted with each other's strengths, it is set for an almighty showdown from Saturday. Steyn expects the finale to live up to the hype. "It's crazy. There's a lot of things to take into consideration. We've got a World Twenty20 around the corner, we've got tours coming up, there's IPL, there's this, there's that and here in the middle of it, we've played two Tests and we are 1-1 and we are here to fight it all out," he said.

"It's pretty crazy and it's exciting all at the same time. And it goes too quickly. PE has come and gone. Those feelings are finished but they are great feelings. When you win, it's amazing. That inspires you to try and have that feeling again. Hopefully, in a couple of days time when the last ball is bowled here at Newlands we can have those feelings over again because that is what we live for and play cricket for." And what everyone wants to watch.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (March 3, 2014, 16:23 GMT)

This article proves that Steyn has lost the pace he once had and cannot bowl at 150kph . still he'll pickup lot of wickets

Posted by   on (March 1, 2014, 5:13 GMT)

@ Nikko...that's a well articulated response to Disco Bob. Glad it came from someone who us not a saffa. Thanks. I agree with your statements that SA will only be more motivated. There want be over confidence but certainly the belief that they can win.

Disco bob thought that Steyn gave MJ a backhanded comment re purple patch wording. It wasn't at all, he was talking about how devastating Mitch was. He has shown nothing but respect for MJ. @ disco Bob....try chill out a bit, it's Saturday and hopefully we are going to see some great test cricket.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 20:49 GMT)

@Disco-Bob - What!?? Wow!!! You, as an Australian, declare you are sick of all the SA talk!? And you think it shows their fragility and compensation for fear? I am not from either country but I can assure you and every other Australian who deludedly believes this to be the case, that the complete and utter opposite is true. Your comments would be the worst case of the pot calling the kettle black that I have ever seen and perhaps will ever see again on the cricinfo site. If you, Warner, Calrke and co. cannot achieve self-awareness, then at least achieve a bit of shut your mouth? Cheers. Learn to do your talking on the pitch Australia? Your 'mind games' are child's play 101. All you do, and have ever done (Warne included) is motivate the opposition and remove any semblance of complacency. Why do you think Steyn is "up for the fight." Need I say more? After all, satire is the glass in which we see all reflections except our own. Pity AUS are too stupid to work that one out.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 17:43 GMT)

I think SA selectors got it spot-on in PE, I feel bad for Alviro and Robbie P, but that's the way it goes. I hope Elgar and De Kock get an extended run in the side to see if the confidence in their selection pays off. And whether Abbott plays or not, I'm glad that SA has such a great batch of young fast bowlers that can slot into the team when needed, and not leave a gaping hole.

Regardless of what happens in Newlands, it should be a cracker!

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 11:56 GMT)

Watch the press conference with Dale Steyn on the other link. What a great guy. Well grounded, straight talking and gives honor where honor is due (Showed alot of respect for Johnson). You did us proud boytjie - well done.

Posted by Greatest_Game on (February 28, 2014, 10:48 GMT)

@ Alexk400 tells us tha I think Morkel and philander not doing their role well at all. Philander may have to go. He is too slow for me."

I hate to break the news to you, Alex400, but you would not last a ball against Philander. And, it is not your decision if he stays or goes. As he is still, by far, the #2 ranked bowler in the world, he is going nowhere but straight out onto the field at Newlands to play, while you will be siting at home with your keyboard and cuddly bear. Thankfully, your opinion counts for nothing. The Proteas selection will go on without inept input from you.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (February 28, 2014, 10:34 GMT)

@German Player: Exactly. Steyn looks like a decent bloke off the field, but when you see him on it, you wouldn't believe it is him. Same as Johnson, i can't believe he is shy off the field when he is an absolute beast on it.

Posted by Piet_G on (February 28, 2014, 9:31 GMT)

I have been at almost every Newlands test match since our readmission in 1992, and can honestly say that this one is probably the biggest of the lot! Two great teams and both captains with something to prove. Biff and Clarke like to bat at Newlands, but I think Rayno and Vern will play the big roles here. C'mon Proteas!

Posted by duncanmoo on (February 28, 2014, 8:23 GMT)

I have to disagree with kensohatter and say that although Johnson has had a great ashes, you cant say the AUS attack is one of the two best in the world. Look at the stats, even though the ENG series buffed up his stats his bowling average is at 27.64 (sr 50.2). Both Philander and Steyn have much better track records, Morkel has stats slightly worse than Johnson, and Siddle's stats are much the same as Johnsons. Harris actually has the best bowling stats of the team!

Posted by Biggus on (February 28, 2014, 8:22 GMT)

Such a tragedy, to have retired and only now to have learned I shouldn't have been visualising cuddly bears as I ran in to bowl........plainly it should have been rabbits! We'll have to put a stop to MJ's panda visualisation sessions post haste! CA's child focus groups have a lot to answer for.....

Posted by wapuser on (February 28, 2014, 7:37 GMT)

@marubini if you think that was the best spell of reverse swing you have ever seen then probably you werent born when wasim, waqar and shoaib akhtar was playing and lets not mention sarfaraz nawaz who actually invented reverse swing.

Posted by AltafPatel on (February 28, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

The bowler is not super by stats only, they way he dominate the game is phenomenal. It's never like he improves stats by tale-enders or minnows, he breaks the top and middle order of the best teams in the world. I remember how he demolished India in WC11 from 267/1 in 40 overs to 296 all out and eventually turning the match to SA by narrow margin. There are numerous occasions but this is the first one when he was started to be called the best in ODIs as well. He is real man.

Posted by AltafPatel on (February 28, 2014, 6:41 GMT)

Aus (particulatly Warner) should learn how to play games that's really worth cricket.

Posted by Alexk400 on (February 28, 2014, 6:13 GMT)

There is no better bowler in the world with modesty and fury all at same time. He is awsome when ball is swinging. When it does not swing he kinda disappear. I think Morkel and philander not doing their role well at all. Philander may have to go. He is too slow for me.

Posted by crick_wizard on (February 28, 2014, 5:55 GMT)

when will we start having bowlers like this in India? when will there be an end to the "bowl line and length and results will follow" and "follow the process and not result" philosophy change? When will Ishant Sharma for once not say that he is bowling really well, face up to the facts and do something about it?

Posted by Marktc on (February 28, 2014, 5:48 GMT)

Steyn is one of those rare cricketers who is 100% focused on the pitch, but off it, hates to think or talk cricket. He is also one of the few bowlers who is effective on all type of pitches and although being the best bowler in the world for a while now, still expresses that he envies other bowlers.....the best bowler SA has produced.

Posted by No.444 on (February 28, 2014, 5:44 GMT)

The Aussies seem to be playing catch up. The swing horse has bolted. They should now be practicing facing movement off the pitch from Philander. That's the danger coming at them this time. At least SA has had 2 weeks to practice against bounce. Not much else will come their way. I suppose it is difficult to practice in the nets when you don't have some one with a four year average of 17 to bowl at you. By the way, did MJ or his underlings manage to reverse swing the optimised practice ball?

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 5:37 GMT)

My day 4 ticket is booked - gonna be a humdinger!!!

Posted by sreehk on (February 28, 2014, 5:18 GMT)

Steyn's asset is his hunger. Hunger got him those skills, hunger got him those spells and wickets. Unless one is really hungry one would not explode the way Steyn does when he takes crucial wickets. But his biggest challenge is can he ring up the speedometer as used to, can he go a notch or two higher? Steyn does not like No.2. Mitchel Johnson is breathing down his neck all the time. Steyn's inner battle is with him and not his form. That is quite evident when he says "ready for the fight". I would love Steyn to relax a bit, forget the world around him, flow in freely. That is when he could bowl much faster.

Posted by ShutTheGate on (February 28, 2014, 3:58 GMT)

Can we expect a packed ground at Newlands for Saturday and Sunday?

If this match doesn't bring out the punters, nothing will.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 3:43 GMT)

Steyn is the best bowler in the world followed by philander these two including morkel have been very consistent for the last few years and that's why South Africa are number 1 in the world. You need 20 wickets to win a match and they consistently do the job. Would be great if they had help with the inclusion of Kyle Abbott they will be almost impossible to beat. Forget about spin South doesn't have any great spin bowlers so use JP and Elgar if needed. Forget Tahir and Robin Petersen there not consistent wicket takers. De langa should also be given another chance because boy can he bowl fast and deadly. He's also a wicket taker. Forget spin bowlers South Africa has always been great at producing fast bowlers. Use them and win every single match.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2014, 3:12 GMT)

Nooooo!!! Steyn!!! Too late. Now every time he goes to psych up and destroy the opposition (which is perfectly allowed and encouraged by me unless he is playing the Black Caps and then he must tear a hamstring during first ball of the first over, leaving them a bowler short too) he will think of cuddly bears. The tragic irony.

Posted by Chris_Howard on (February 28, 2014, 1:27 GMT)

Quite possibly my favourite quick bowler ever.

Even though I'm Aussie, I'm an old quick at heart, so I hope he turns it on again in the Third Test. And Johnson too.

Love seeing truly great bowlers embarrassing batsmen's technique.

If they both fire, it'll be the best fight since "The Rumble in the Jungle".

And that's why I love Test cricket. Good Test cricket often feels like a heavyweight bout going the full 15 rounds.

Roll on Cape Town, teams to your corners.

Posted by Ozcricketwriter on (February 27, 2014, 23:43 GMT)

Steyn is a very good bowler. Probably the second best bowler going around at the moment, behind only Mitchell Johnson.

Posted by DJRNZ on (February 27, 2014, 23:07 GMT)

Steyn and Mitch are just what the game need!

As a Kiwi supporter I miss Shane Bond like crazy for his ability and pace so I enjoy watching these two.

Got some good young bowlers but these two are brilliant for the game. Always feel like something is going to happen and I love the aggression. It's even better when the batsmen is up to the task, such a good contest.

Imagine if these two were in the same team!

For me Steyn has been better that Mitch over the years but on Mitch's current form I think they are pretty even now. Can't wait for the next test!

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 22:18 GMT)

@marubini: I think you never saw Waqar Younis bowling. If you want best reverse swing bowling then watch Waqar's reverse swingers. He is the King of Reverse Swing world has ever produced.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 22:12 GMT)

Nothing wrong with being angry as long as it doesn'r cross the boundaries of the game. Not everybody is Wasim Akram.

Posted by GermanPlayer on (February 27, 2014, 21:27 GMT)

@mrjanjua you seem to know more about Dale Steyn than the man himself. You may be surprised but Dale Steyn and M Johnson are among the most humble personalities off the field currently playing the game. Off the field they are not what they appear to be on the field.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 20:52 GMT)

@kensohatter You have it spot on. When Johnsons tail is up, he single handedly dismantles opposition. While Steyn does not have the physical intimidation factor that Johnson has over the batsmen you feel Steyn can conjure up a game winning performance at any time.

Amazing game this test cricket! 3rd test is the unofficial test final of the 2013/2014 season

Posted by disco_bob on (February 27, 2014, 20:47 GMT)

There's a palpable fragility ever time SA speaks. It's been nearly two weeks and we are still hearing about Steyn's gyppy tummy. And we are still hearing about his 6 wicket haul. Let's be clear, two wickets were tail enders and two wickets were irrelevant 2nd innings wickets when SA were out of the game. Talking about Morne virtually 'taking heads off' is not the same as MJ putting one person in hospital and having Amla's head knocked back as if he'd taken a king hit. They talk as if Cenurion does not count. Then he give MJ a back handed compliment by talking about a 'purple patch'.

My take on all this is that they seem to feel the need to talk themselves up as if they are a bit worried about what may come at Cape Town. If Australia can start well we may find some doubts creeping into the SA minds.

Posted by mrjanjua on (February 27, 2014, 20:14 GMT)

That is a lie Steyn is angry. Anger is needed from a fast bowler but Steyn has slightly too much.

Posted by marubini on (February 27, 2014, 19:41 GMT)

Hail king dale steyn,the best spell of reverse swing I have ever seen.

Posted by mzm149 on (February 27, 2014, 19:23 GMT)

Cape Town test will be more of Philander's and Harris' magic as compared to Steyn or Johnson.

Posted by T-run on (February 27, 2014, 18:37 GMT)

In this era of fat bats, advanced padding and the game skewered in favour of the batsmen, Dale Steyn is in the middle of a Helluva career! Not just his stats - comparable to all the greats - but several truly memorable match winning spells ranging across bouncy wickets to subcontinental dust bowls, marks him as one of the all time greats. My favourite bowler!! When he bowls, I stop being an Indian cricket fan and simply marvel at his skill, the beauty of his action and relentless attitude.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 18:28 GMT)

Australia and pakistan has the best bowling attacks in the world

Posted by kensohatter on (February 27, 2014, 17:06 GMT)

Without doubt the two best bowling attacks in world cricket at the moment. After the first test I really thought Johnson was unstoppable. I do hope he bounces back for the 3rd. For me this is the one area that I think gives the best fast bowler mantle to Steyn. Hes just consistent for a longer period where as Johnson is a force when hes in form but horrible if hes not.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2014, 17:01 GMT)

just love the way he expressed how he feels when he s in the middle of such spells! a true champ! he shows time and again that he s the boss; the show stopper! take a bow dale :)

Posted by UsmanMuhammad on (February 27, 2014, 17:01 GMT)

Reminded me of old Waqar, who bold such spells at will. Bravo, Steyn!

Posted by GoCho on (February 27, 2014, 16:56 GMT)

Thank you Steyn, Johnson and Morkel. In the space of 8 days, you have shown the world how amazing test cricket could be. Who said 5 day cricket was boring! This series has been exhilarating to be honest. Cant wait for the series finale!

Posted by SurlyCynic on (February 27, 2014, 16:53 GMT)

Can't wait for this test. Talent on both sides, Newlands, hard aggressive cricket. Bring on Saturday.

Posted by on (February 27, 2014, 16:42 GMT)

a master piece spell i have ever seen..

Posted by zuber21886 on (February 27, 2014, 16:39 GMT)

Kudos to Australia on learning from their mistakes and preparing themselves for something they lacked in second test. I hope Indian camp does the same thing to learn from their mistakes, because many times in a series it doesn't seem like they change anything from previous errors.

Posted by Webba84 on (February 27, 2014, 16:36 GMT)

Great bowler, and obviously plays better when the ante is upped. Hoping the last test match sees the best from both sides, will be incredible!

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Tour Results
South Africa v Australia at Centurion - Mar 14, 2014
Australia won by 6 wickets (with 30 balls remaining)
South Africa v Australia at Durban - Mar 12, 2014
Australia won by 5 wickets (with 2 balls remaining)
South Africa v Australia at Port Elizabeth - Mar 9, 2014
Match abandoned without a ball bowled
South Africa v Australia at Cape Town - Mar 1-5, 2014
Australia won by 245 runs
South Africa v Australia at Port Elizabeth - Feb 20-23, 2014
South Africa won by 231 runs
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