South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 4th day

There's no stopping Steyn

There was no chance Graeme Smith was going to get the ball out of Dale Steyn's hands as he raced towards a career-best performance

Firdose Moonda at the Wanderers

February 4, 2013

Comments: 50 | Text size: A | A

Dale Steyn's 11th wicket ended the Test, South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 4th day, February 4, 2013
Dale Steyn's performance earned him back-to-back Man-of-the-Match awards © AFP

Dale Steyn took the new ball. An hour and 40 minutes later, he was still bowling with it. In a spell that lasted 10 overs and four balls, Steyn grabbed four wickets to take his match tally to 11 and his status as the best bowler operating on the international stage at the moment to a new level.

Long spells and Steyn have not had to walk the same road for a while. Graeme Smith prefers to use his strike bowler in bursts to get optimum usage of his pace. Today was different.

South Africa earmarked the new ball as being the starting point to end the Test match. AB de Villiers hoped the final wicket would fall just after lunch. Steyn made sure the script was acted out to plan.

His away swingers were perfect, he drew the batsmen forward and then beat them and it took only ten balls for him to find the edge of Asad Shafiq. The first of the overnight batsmen had departed. The next over the same. Misbah-ul-Haq. The second peg plucked.

By the time Steyn had bowled five overs, Vernon Philander had already taken a third wicket in the morning session and there was a drinks break to catch his breath. So he bowled another one. Then Morne Morkel claimed the fourth. So Steyn bowled another. And another. And another. And another.

As the spell grew, so did the questions about when Steyn would be replaced. It was one Smith was not going to ask. "I sort of left it in his hands, it's a bit dangerous for me to make that move when he's in the middle of his spell," Smith said.

Steyn would not be moved. He wanted to finish the job both for the team and himself. "If they were still seven down, it would have been a different situation. It was just that we needed two more wickets," he said. "I wanted to push on. It was about trying to take the last wickets and get off the field. Graeme came and said to me do you want to stop some time, but I said I would just carry on bowling, it's no train wreck. I'm pretty fit."

The final two fell in the space of two overs and Steyn completed the job five minutes into what would have been lunch. The praise was all his but he only accepted fractions of it. "In this team we all want to share the rewards with a win like this. It's nice to have a standout performance but everyone in this team is capable of doing what I did today with the ball."

The South African team that hold the No.1 Test ranking has built its culture on togetherness so to hear Steyn sharing it is not a surprise. What has not been divided is the danger factor, which belongs mostly to Steyn. Although Misbah said Steyn is not the scariest bowler he has ever faced, he acknowledged that the "areas that he bowls makes him special."

It is with that knowledge that Smith hopes Pakistan have been mentally scarred. "I don't know how much getting bowled out for 49 will affect them, but hopefully our bowlers have affect them when they thinking about the type of people that they have to come up against," he said. "Some personal battles were won."

The most obvious of those is Steyn's against the top-order. Recently, he has ripped through tails and Vernon Philander has been largely responsible for dismantling at the outset. This time, Steyn did the damage upfront in the first innings.

His six-wicket haul in the first innings was split perfectly between frontline batsmen and tail-enders to show that his poison remains as powerful even though there are other bowlers to contribute. His standards have remained high and that is what Smith demands from the team as they look to widen the gap on the rankings.

Rather than play simply to beat a team, Smith wants South Africa to impose themselves on their opposition. Since becoming No.1 at Lord's last August, South Africa have not lost a match. The four they have won have all finished inside four days and have been achieved consecutively, something that evaded South Africa since 2010 which was the last time they won back-to-back Tests.

Against New Zealand, both victories were by an innings. Against Australia in Perth and Pakistan in Johannesburg, South Africa recognised the moment where they had to make their advantage count. On the second afternoon at the WACA, Smith and Hashim Amla scored at more than six runs to the over to bat Australia out of the game. On the third morning at the Wanderers, Amla and de Villiers put on 68 runs in nine overs to do the same and prompt the declaration.

Smith called them in because he "did not want to let the game drift," and "another good day would help us land the blow." The decisiveness of Smith's actions points to a new determination to finish teams off in as emphatic a way as possible so that their morale is as dented as their performance.

As Test cricket's most experienced captain, the only criticism of Smith was that he was sometimes too passive. That has changed too. His confidence now allows him to take the initiative, instead of allowing it to come to him and it is a good thing his premier bowler understands that too. "The key thing is that we don't get complacent if we want to keep dominating cricket," Steyn said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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Posted by   on (February 9, 2013, 13:35 GMT)

Steyn will be hailed as the best ever, by the time he ends. I think he could top 500 wickets. Statistics dont lie, Steyn has the best strike rate of the 200 plus club, and is only topped by philander and bond beneath it. You have to give credit where its due, Test cricket has made a massive revival over the last two years, and I'd like to think that Steyn has played a big part in that. Love or hate, hes entertaining to watch - and when hes red hot, against the best batsmen out there, its a battle we all love to see.

Posted by sasjads on (February 7, 2013, 14:27 GMT)

Surely one of d greatest fast bowler ever and for me he is greatest coz i didn't watch the holdings garners roberts nd others

Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 7, 2013, 8:08 GMT)

I think achieving 300+ wickets (that is, MORE THAN HALF of career wickets of most Fast Bowlers) is enough to decide whether anybody performed below, on or above par to the greatest bowlers of All-Time...Steyn has left NO doubt that he is ABOVE par and one of the greatest, considering he achieved it played so many less tests and in mostly a batsman-friendly era of T20...At THIS stage, McGrath the Highest, is 25 wickets behind. And Lillee the Fastest, is just 5 ahead. In this form Steyn will overtake Lillee by leaps and bounds. Conclusion...For me...: Steyn IS a legend...already.

Posted by Smahuta on (February 7, 2013, 8:05 GMT)

IAS2009 - Marshall, holding etc did not play against dominating teams either, they WERE the dominating team. Same goes here, you can only play against who is there at the time and be judged by that.

@Blufunk - Yes what a loss Amir is to world cricket, he looked a real talent. That wouldnt change the fact that Pak needs to get some decent test batsmen though.

Posted by cric_J on (February 6, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

The article's title says it all.Dale Steyn is easily the world's best fast bowler in tests and I am not saying this due to a handful of recent performances.The guy has been consistent to death and has a special knack of delivering at key moments , be it his 5 wickets in the first test against England in 2012 or his five-for against Australia in the third test recently. He is the prime reason for SA to be at the top of the list just as he himself is. He is right up there with the all time greats of fast bowling and there is simply no denying that.We don't have to wait for him to retire to get to that top list .He is already there.Statistically he may not be as good as many other bowlers of the past but the impact he has on the opposition is splendid. Take a bow man and keep STEYNGUNNING the opposition batsmen !!

Posted by   on (February 6, 2013, 10:02 GMT)

Steyn's abillity to get late swing makes him a slippery customer to handle. He lets you play balls you could have left as the swing is so late and you feel you need to play the balls as at first glance looks like its heading to the stumps and you might feel that one may just not swing and you get bowled. Add to this the abillity to get seam movement as well and that pace and you have little time to make your mind up to leave or to play. And because he is not that big you cant really leave on bounce as the ball goes through lowish and you never know when you can get bowled. He is a legend in the making if he stays free of injuries and keeps up his wicket taking bowling. All test nations wish they have a bowler like him.

Posted by BillyCC on (February 6, 2013, 7:41 GMT)

More of these performances from Steyn and less of the wayward inconsistent stuff and he will make his way further and further up the all-time rankings. He has improved his economy rate recently which is a good sign. Calls that he is the best ever currently are ridiculous but they are plausible now depending on his career during his 30s.

Posted by Amol_Gh on (February 6, 2013, 5:11 GMT)

In fact...I always feel, Steyn is going to get a wicket for every ball he bowls. Such is his intensity and relentless dedication for every ball he bowls.

Posted by   on (February 6, 2013, 2:03 GMT)

@samukele really who and when did steyn disrespect any saffa?

Posted by legfinedeep on (February 6, 2013, 1:13 GMT)

@ballonbat - Steyn said what he did because SA culture (unlike the Indian mentality, for example), is not to make stars and cult heroes out of individuals. SA has had world class players in cricket, rugby, golf, swimming, athletics - but you don't see their faces all over the country on TV, billboards etc selling everything from soda to soap. Can you imagine if Kallis played for India? Or Steyn for that matter. They would have had a million times the hype the hoopla surrounding him. Media and sponsors would have made him larger than life in the psyche of the public. SA media/culture/public just does not operate that way, they don't get fanatical and individual success is not celebrated anywhere near team success. In India, many people don't mind a team loss so long as Sachin gets his 100th 100, or billionth run or whatever. So Steyn is not being falsely modest, it's just their mentality not to hog individual credit and distribute praise over the time and not over any one person's ego

Posted by Surajdon9 on (February 5, 2013, 17:30 GMT)

This is undeniably the best ever South African test side that are tipped to dominate the world game in the test arena for many years to come. There are at least 5 players from the current side that would get into an all time South Africa test XI. Pakistan are a solid, consistently performing unit under their current captain, however it's more through the qualities of team work, tactical nous, collective efforts, structured game plans and a stable environment that has contributed to their success as opposed to individual talent or sheer natural ability of an individual person. There is a debate that Younis and Ajmal will get into an all time Pakistan XI, but still it would take some convincing for others. The difference between the sides in sheer superiority, recognition and natural ability needs no further explanation.

Posted by Surajdon9 on (February 5, 2013, 17:28 GMT)

When Sri Lanka have been bowled out for 43, New Zealand have been bowled out for 45, Australia have been bowled out for 47, Pakistan have been bowled out for 49, doesn't that tell you something about the quality of the bowling and the difficulty of the pitches?Dale Steyn deserves his due. You can criticise Pakistan all day, but one should at least have the courtesy to appreciate a sublime bowler, a sublime talent, a once in a generation bowler, a lethal bowler who has found the edge and ran through the defences of many highly respectable test match batsmen. In an age where batsmen dominate, seeing the ball angle, swing, zip through like it does when Steyn is charging in; is agreeably a refreshing sight. His accuracy is unerring, his swing is late, his pace is always up, and his attitude is one of a man who refuses to give up...

Posted by Raja_Udhayasuriyan on (February 5, 2013, 11:46 GMT)

Lilee, Hadlee, Wasim, Waqar, Ambrose, Walsh, Mcgrath, Lee....Kings in PACE, ACCURACY and SWING! But Dale Steyn does all three... he has carved a seperate category for himself.. it should be called Steyn bowling!!

Posted by Mystical_wanderer on (February 5, 2013, 10:25 GMT)

Its hard to fathom now how erratic Steyn was in the initial few tests he played. Was smashed all over the Park by Aussies & english then; though picked up a few wickets. Kudos to SA team mgmt for persisting with him. Must have seen something

Posted by TsoroM on (February 5, 2013, 9:35 GMT)

I have to say in my years of watching cricket, I have seen fast bowlers with great accuracy but not much pace (McGrath, Pollock, Stuart Clarke, now Philander...), then I have seen bowlers with I have seen bowlers with great pace (Lee...) but I have not seen a complete triple yet to match Steyn, pace, accuracy and swing (especially that incredible late out-swing he gets). I think he is the complete package as far as fast bowlers go. The best for a period of time!

Posted by samukele on (February 5, 2013, 8:56 GMT)

Steyn may be the number 1 bowler but he is last when it comes to showing respect for recently deceased Springbok players. Shame on you!

Posted by Potatis on (February 5, 2013, 7:16 GMT)

@Gregg22, the three left handed Australian batsmen you named each scored centuries against SA in the last series. So what was the point you wanted to make again?

Posted by ballonbat on (February 5, 2013, 7:14 GMT)

"In this team we all want to share the rewards with a win like this. It's nice to have a standout performance but everyone in this team is capable of doing what I did today with the ball."

There's modesty and then there's speaking sheer nonsense. Steyn crossed that line. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you have a gift and that you have just bowled some of the best spells of fast bowling ever in Test cricket. Otherwise it becomes false modesty. You can praise the rest of the team, you can be polite and humble, but please, DS, be honest about your bowling. We all admire it and know we have been privileged to witness top, top fast bowling. Now it's your turn to admit you know that too. Enjoy watching the replays!

Posted by Jabulani on (February 5, 2013, 6:34 GMT)

@IAS2009 - are you implying that the West Indies played against dominating teams? I seriously doubt that the teams that they played against were any better than the quality of the teams that SA are facing today. Don't let the romanticism of the past cloud objective judgement.

The problem with many such posts is that they are heavily laden with emotion and lacking in objectivity. I can't say if Steyn will be the all time greatest bowler, but he has already claimed a spot amongst the greats and if his career continues like it has then he will have a good claim for the best in the modern era at least.

Posted by joseyesu on (February 5, 2013, 6:23 GMT)

Steyn bundles out the ASIA's easily and Philander is doing the same for Rest of the teams. Hats off to the Steyn and CO's

Posted by crashed on (February 5, 2013, 5:41 GMT)

@IAS2009 You know you are absolutely right the only dominating team currently at this stage is South Africa - Steyn need to play in one of the other teams to play against South Africa - so Steyn cannot play against South Africa so yes - Steyn does not play AGAINST a dominating team ... He is playing IN THE DOMINATING team right now ;) Tell you what put together a world x1 and send them against SA maybe then you might get some result you want right now we had beaten the number 2 3 and 4 teams in the world - how low do you want us to go?? May I remind you that the PITCHES in Australia were PREPARED to negate the SA fast bowlers in the first 2 tests and ...BOY OH BOY did it backfired hugely in the third test ;D- so much for wicket preparing - it will get you only so far

Posted by mvkk on (February 5, 2013, 5:33 GMT)

The beauty about this team is the character. All the people who are at the top of the charts, Steyn, Kallis and Amla are wonderful characters. In this team everybody loves to share the Pie with the rest of the team. Great teams are made when that Bond is established and you compete with one another on the field and enjoy equally no matter who comes out top...Go Proteas

Posted by highveldhillbilly on (February 5, 2013, 5:29 GMT)

@Jay.Raj - have a look at Walsh's record. Longevity is not debated but a pure strike bowler I think not. Walsh and Pollock has a bit more in common... except Walsh lasted longer

Posted by Saffie1987 on (February 5, 2013, 5:21 GMT)

@ Ias2009 and Shrtlg: You guys have very selective memories! Every great bowler has had a bad tour! Steyn was magnificent at Perth, and what about the previous tour to Australia, where a smoked an Australian batting line-up in 3 Test, wich had an even greater Batting-Line Up then they have now! Or wha about Steyn averaging 21 in India, against Laxmann, Dravid, Sehwag. Gambhir and Tendulkar? Please dont talk nonsense! Steyn will become the greates Fast bowler of All-Time! You guys are just jealous, nothing more and nothing less!

Posted by IAS2009 on (February 5, 2013, 3:51 GMT)

Steyn is good bowler but he is not even close to be called all time best bowler, he is not bowling against dominating teams, he was very ordinary on austraila tour. Holding, Marshal, Ambrose, Walsh, were great bowlers of their time they played against very good teams of that time, Steyn might be in their category in future not now. Currently Aussies, Pakistan, NZ, are very weak teams as far as batting is concern, India will be weak also in batting as new players coming in, SA could dominate for a while, with AB keeping wickets they have very long batting line up. it is very tough to beat them in tests. everything is clicking for SA right now.

Posted by   on (February 5, 2013, 3:04 GMT)

I would still not read much into this performance. But since the great of Indian cricket have retired, India has not emphasized its position as an unbeatable home side. Over the years that has definitely eluded the South African side though. One must remember that it is the same Steyn and Co. who were taken on by Sehwag en route his 300 and another 400 and a personal double by Sachin in an ODI in India. What we are seeing are sparks of greatness that does have the potential to be the best of all time, but that position has still not been realized as yet. South Africa always starts with a bang and then go on to loose the second or the third test. This happened with India toured, with Australia and most recently with Sri Lanka. Each of their initial victories were as resounding as the one above. Yet they went on to loose a morale defeating test later on in the series. If the Saffers are to be labeled as the best, they need to arrest this trend as emphatically as the first test.

Posted by Gregg22 on (February 5, 2013, 1:48 GMT)

The comment regarding his lack of having a lethal inswinger is utter nonsense. Firstly he knows when to use it and when not to. Too many bowlers try too many fancy tricks and forget that sticking to the basics is sometimes best. He clearly didn't even need the inswinger in this match. But if you do wana see him move the (new) ball bowth ways youtube his 7-51 against india in Nagpur. They analyse it quite nicely. And as for the left handers theory, ask Warner, Cowan, and especially HUSSEY, how 'poorly' he bowls at lefties. This man is class. Period!

Posted by shrtlg on (February 5, 2013, 1:10 GMT)

There's no stopping Steyn, unless you bring him to Australia!

Posted by mxnmxn on (February 5, 2013, 0:48 GMT)

What a spell! It was treat to watch good bowling and fielding in this world of run guttering T20s. Steyn (actually the whole SA pack) was absolutely awesome. Pakistan also has very good bowlers. Hoping to see fantastic bowling performances from both sides during this series.

Posted by   on (February 5, 2013, 0:28 GMT)

The anomaly is that Dale Steyn is not the greatest fast bowler ever since thats impossible to prove.Imran,Marshall,Lillee,Hadlee,Trueman and Steyn are the greatest bowlers in their respective countries history and all are special.Steyn is like facing a Warne leggie at pace at times and his outswinger threatens pads,stumps and the edge.Special bowler given the lateness of his swing and ability to change up in pace i required.

Posted by thruthecovers on (February 4, 2013, 23:04 GMT)

@jay raj...we don't realy care whether he's any better than Wasim or Walsh. Fact of the matter is...HE IS A WHOLE LOT BETTER THAN ANY CURRENT FAST BOWLER OUTHERE TODAY! Comparing players across eras will always come down to personal preference anyway. Read some idiot's blog the other day that Sir Sobers is a better allrounder than Kallis will ever be only because Kallis isn't aesthetic enough. You tell me what can be more pleasing to the eye than a Jacques Kallis cover drive? I think if a current day player gets talked about or mentioned when yesteryear greats are discussed, he obviously belongs to that club. Which other current fast bowler today can be talked about among other greats without prejudice? Dale Steyn will be the only one publicly accepted into that group without shame. The world over. And that, sir is the only argument necessary

Posted by Jay.Raj on (February 4, 2013, 22:04 GMT)

steyn is a great bowler but not better than wasim or walsh.

Posted by DeckChairand6pack on (February 4, 2013, 21:29 GMT)

So proud to be a Proteas fan at the moment. No one does sporting disappointment quite like the SA cricket team and after living through the low points of the 90's and 00's, countless ODI and tournament failings, indifferent performances far below our potential, it is all the more rewarding to be able to bask in the moment! Well done to the whole team.

Posted by 2nd_Slip on (February 4, 2013, 20:57 GMT)

Greatest fast bowler in test cricket history

Posted by YoBro on (February 4, 2013, 19:14 GMT)

No wonder Tendulkar rates that dogged and chancy knock of 140 odd runs he scored in the second innings of their Test series back in 2011, right up there. Steyn is lethal and he rarely has an off day.

Posted by CaptainKool on (February 4, 2013, 18:42 GMT)

Steyn is the greatest bowler of all era. Period.

Posted by warneneverchuck on (February 4, 2013, 18:36 GMT)

Steyn is the best swing bowler ever

Posted by TommytuckerSaffa on (February 4, 2013, 18:27 GMT)

Thank you for giving us such a beautiful thing to watch Dale Steyn, there is something enthralling about watching a genuine quick tear in, as a batsman dread fill your stomach....

Steyn is already hit legendary status with 4 years at No1 Test bowler and he nowhere near retirement yet. May there be many more years of beautiful but deadly bowling to come ...All hail Dale Pain.

Posted by bluefunk on (February 4, 2013, 18:12 GMT)

If only young Amir had not bowled that no ball. Then this would have been a contest to truly relish.

Posted by Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on (February 4, 2013, 18:09 GMT)

Steyn is, as tickcric rightly said, dangerously beautiful. An absolute delight to watch. Who is better? Allan Donald or Dale Steyn? Why compare? Aren't they both dangerously beautiful? Absolute bliss to have watched Donald and very excited to keep following Steyn. Thanks to both of them for their unmistakeable presence on the field and give happiness to millions of fans across the globe. Cricket will be immensely poorer the day Steyn retires.

Posted by   on (February 4, 2013, 18:08 GMT)

There is no escaping from South Africa's bowling attack. Though Pakistan have an amazing and more complete bowling attack for all conditions with saeed Ajmal and Hafeez It's SA's pace attack is the most lethal today. Even in the subcontinent Steyn is a different bowler to face. @SamRoy ur rite ifu try to negate steyn by including left-handers then Morne becomes dangerous.

Posted by tickcric on (February 4, 2013, 17:26 GMT)

I hope the kids are watching Steyn closely - his extraordinary skills, his attitude, the respect & admiration he receives from fans, experts around the world. It's just a delight to watch him bowl, dangerously beautiful!

Posted by Dhanvanth on (February 4, 2013, 16:39 GMT)

Its premature to deem south Africa as the New force in world cricket! But it is very much a possibility.. South African players are always good fighters but they have been overpowered by the aussies..hope they dominate cricket lyk the windies and aussies

Posted by VinodGupte on (February 4, 2013, 16:17 GMT)

steyn is fast becoming my most favourite cricketer. there are many who echo my thoughts and that is telling in a sport that is dominated by batsmen as far as popularity is concerned.

Posted by SamRoy on (February 4, 2013, 15:51 GMT)

One way of negating Steyn is by playing a lot of left-handers, but then Morne becomes increasingly lethal!

Posted by Sports4Youth on (February 4, 2013, 15:50 GMT)

There is no doubt that presently Styen is best in the business. One look at his stats will remove all doubts. Also his fitness is amazing for a fast bowler.

Also I would like to talk about the over-hyped Umar Gul. Gul has a bowling average of 33 compared to styen's 22 and Philanders 17. Even the new comer Junaid has a better average (28) than Gul. I fail to find one reason why Rameez and other Pakistani commentators rate Gul so high. Frankly I dont think Gul is a Test bowler or a new ball bowler. He is better in T20's with the old ball. Pakistan do not have a settled 3 seamer like SA because for more than 2 years they have been playing with 2 specialist spinners and Hafeez. Secondly their policy of giving bits & pieces chances to Cheema, Tanvir Ahmed & Riaz has failed them badly.


Posted by Boodah on (February 4, 2013, 15:19 GMT)

i dont think its fair to just compare the bowlers from the w.indies team that dominated the sport for so long. remember that their batsmen often put them into commanding positions which allowed for a certain type of bowling. it was different teams in a different era - technology also plays a major role.

however, looking at the SA test attack at the moment, they are hands down the best in the world. you have steyn, ranked #1 for a long time, a very difficult customer in morkel, and philander averaging 17 ... that's pretty world class. then there's kallis, who has almost 300 test wickets, and still bowls swing around 135-140km/h. the only 'weak link' if you can call it that is the lack of a world class spinner.

steyn himself admits that the bowlers work in partnership, so they have to be judged as a unit. sometimes steyn is the threat, other times philander& morkel, and sometimes they all take wickets. this is what makes them a devastating unit...and then there's the batsmen :)

Posted by Batmanindallas on (February 4, 2013, 14:59 GMT)

Steyn is great bowler but the others are good compared to what is around the world today. But to compare with pack from WI they need atleast another Steyn

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