Steyn on track for Durban comeback
South Africa's hopes of bouncing back from their disappointing tour of India have been given a timely boost with the news that Dale Steyn, their veteran attack leader, has come through an intensive fitness test on his injured groin ahead of next week's first Test at Durban.
Steyn, 32, missed the last three Tests of South Africa's 3-0 series loss in India earlier this month, having sustained the injury while fielding during the first Test at Mohali.
However, he was put through his paces during a tough work-out at Newlands on Thursday, where he was required to bowl at full speed in the nets, run sprints and take part in fielding drills. He will undergo final assessments from the South Africa medical team when he links up with the Test squad on Tuesday.
"Dale has put a lot of work into his training and rehab since his return from India so we are very happy to have him back from injury," South Africa's team manager, Dr Mohammed Moosajee said.
"He was put through a thorough fitness test on Thursday by Cape Cobras physiotherapist, Shane Jabaar, which included two bowling spells at match intensity, fielding drills, sprints and agility tests. He came through the tests without any discomfort and will be available for selection for the first Test match against England starting in Durban next week."
With 402 Test wickets in 81 appearances since making his debut against England in 2004-05, Steyn has established himself as one of the modern great fast bowlers. With Vernon Philander already ruled out of the first two Tests after damaging ankle ligaments during a warm-up football match, his return to action is especially timely for a team that remains at No.1 in the Test rankings but is smarting after losing their first overseas Test series for nine years.
The first Test will pit Steyn and his new-ball sidekick, Morne Morkel, against England's James Anderson and Stuart Broad, another veteran pairing who have been in particularly fine form in 2015. Anderson, who recently became England's leading wicket-taker of all time, goes into the series with 426 wickets to his name and can expect to pass both Kapil Dev (434) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431) on the all-time list before the series is out.
However, according to Graeme Smith, Steyn's former South Africa captain, there is still no doubt which of the two he would prefer to have in his ranks.
"I don't think there is a match-up," Smith told ESPNcricinfo. "Dale Steyn is by far the best fast bowler in the world, to me, the fastest to 400 wickets, he's performed all around the world, not only in swinging conditions. For me there's no greater bowler in the world that gets a sniff and is able to create an opportunity and win a game for a team.
"Jimmy, I have a lot of respect for him, a great swing bowler," he added. "He will play a key role in the series, because if he's not picking up wickets he still holds the game with his ability to create pressure."