Steyn thankful for team-mate support
Dale Steyn, South Africa's latest admission to the 300-wicket club, acknowledged the speed of his success has been aided by the quality of bowlers around him. Alongside Makhaya Ntini at the start of his career and Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander in the last year, Steyn has been able to operate potently in small doses while his counterparts put in the hard yards.
As South Africa's firebrand frontman, Steyn had the tireless Ntini and hard-working Morkel and now the metronomic Philander do the bulk of the donkey work while he is saved to bowl when it matters. "I pick and choose the times when I need to force speed and force extended spells," Steyn said.
That much was evident as recently as the Newlands Test against New Zealand where Steyn was required to bowl an eight-over spell in the hour after lunch. Graeme Smith wanted to crack through the lower middle order after stubborn New Zealand resistance and he entrusted the responsibility to his senior man.
Steyn moved through the gears, firing in a barrage of short balls to unnerve the already vulnerable New Zealanders. He operated at full throttle, steaming in, snorting and scary. Craig Cumming, the former New Zealander opener, said Steyn's angry eyes get going when he was like that.
When Steyn starts to behave irreverently, he bowls better. When he sulks, kicks the boundary rope, sits on the cooler box when he should be fielding and ignores the autograph hunters, he will deliver the ball faster and with more venom. But that side of him only comes out once a series, if that. It only comes when Smith decides South Africa need to pull the trigger.
It sometimes leads to people questioning whether Steyn starts slowly or loses rhythm later on. According to him, it's neither. It is just the difference when he cranks it up is so stark. "I always try to start like that especially as Graeme speaks about bowlers having to lead from the front," he said. "I try and set the tone but it doesn't always happen. When you know you can get two more days off in Cape Town, that's when you try and do it."
It is also when he knows he will have time to recover from the extra exertion that Steyn is willing to extend himself. Having never picked up a serious bowling injury, Steyn is aware that his clean action and good run of luck has served him well and he wants to keep it that way. "I bowled after lunch for an hour-and-a-bit, and my legs are feeling it now. If I had to go back out there and bowl tomorrow, the chances of picking up an injury would be a lot higher."
It is identifying and managing situations like that that Steyn thinks has kept him fit and helped him get to 300 wickets as quickly as he has. His milestone was achieved in the same amount of time as Richard Hadlee and Malcolm Marshall making him joint third fastest in the world. Although Steyn is aware of and proud of the record it is not something he regards as overly important.
"I play a lot of games for South Africa and bowl a lot of overs," he said. "The way I see it, if you're going to do that, and you stay fit, you will get wickets. For example, if I was a batter, like Hashim Amla, I would be scoring runs. But I was quite happy with the ball that got the 300th wicket."
"I was stoked, it was awesome but I've got a lot more to offer in the game. I've got another Test match to play in Port Elizabeth a few days from now and I've got a few more years in cricket. I look forward to a couple more wickets. But 300 wickets is a lot of wickets so I can go to bed happy."
The number crunchers will predict that Steyn could become the quickest to another milestone - such as 400 or 500 wickets. But Steyn is not looking that far ahead and is just enjoying the now. "It's awesome. A couple of years ago, I wanted to take wickets because of things like strike rates and leading the attack. But now, this attack is led by everyone. Morne Morkel is doing it; Vernon started playing as if he was doing it all the time. We've got such a great seam attack that we are able to play with the spinner. This team is an incredible team to be part of right now."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent