Sri Lanka v South Africa, 1st Test, Galle, 5th day July 20, 2014

I owe it to Donald - Steyn

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Was always confident about winning - Amla

For inspiration for his paintings, Salvador Dali relied on his wife Gala. For motivation to write the upbeat tune Here Comes the Sun, The Beatles' George Harrison drew on the year he had quit the band temporarily and been arrested. For a reason to bowl faster and fiercer, Dale Steyn looks at the boundary rope because that's where Allan Donald is usually stationed.

South Africa's bowling coach is not an unusual choice for a hero. Everyone from children playing street cricket to members of the opposition, like Mark Gillespie of New Zealand, cite Donald as someone they look up to. But to Steyn, he is more than just a role-model. He is also a personal tutor, a cheerleader and a friend.

"Allan is an amazing bowler. I watched a couple of his Youtube videos before I bowled here and he was just incredible. And then every day he comes and tells you how good you are and what a legend you are. That must take a lot out of him because he is a legend himself," Steyn said. "That's why every time I take wickets, I try to signal to him; to try and say this is not just for the team and the fans. This is to say thank you. He keeps me going."

Since Donald took over as South Africa's bowling coach in June 2011, Steyn's success has soared. In the three years between then and now, Steyn has taken more than a third of his total career wickets at a lower average than his overall numbers. Not only is he more threatening than he was before, he is also more miserly. His 133 scalps have come at 21.84 with an economy rate of 2.91. Before Donald's tenure, Steyn had 232 wickets at 23.2 and conceded 3.48 runs to the over.

Those performances have included match-winning bursts against teams including Pakistan and Australia at home and now, Sri Lanka in Galle. Steyn picked up the best figures by a seamer at this venue - nine for 99 in the match - a feat made even better by the expectation conditions would conspire to work against him in this series. "Every time I go on tour I want to better my last performance. Every time I come to the subcontinent I want to do well," Steyn said. "If I run in and take a five-for on a green track, no-one cares but if you run in and take a five-for here, that really counts."

Steyn's performance was headlined as much by pace as it was by purpose. He knew bowling quickly would work no matter the type of surface but he also knew bowling with an attacking approach would allow no wriggle room against an opposition who thought there was a realistic chance to pull off a historic chase. "It's not the fastest wicket in the world but if you can get pace through the air and bowl with a bit of aggression you always stand a chance," he explained. "It's the kind of wicket where you have to bowl the ball in the right areas more often."

That adaption and attention to discipline is something Donald has enforced rigorously since he became part of the set-up. He wants South Africa's pack to operate under the principles of jungle law: hunt or be hunted. That approach seems to have been picked up by more than just the seamers.

Hashim Amla, in his first Test as captain, made a declaration that was considered too bold for a man taking baby steps in Test leadership but was rooted in realism. Amla and the management knew that no team had scored more than 300 runs in the final innings at Galle, they knew that no team had chased more than 96 to win successfully here and that no team has batted out more than 114 overs in the fourth innings.

So they made the decision to call time on their innings at a time when Sri Lanka would need 370 to win. They had 122 overs to do it, which made it a comfortable equation but you can see why South Africa did not think they would be bowling that many. Their safety net was secure as it could have been but still, there was a stage when it seemed to be hanging by a slender thread.

"I just wanted to have as many overs as possible to win the game. If we had lost the game, so be it but that would give us the best chance to win the game," Amla said. "At 110 for 1 the thought in my mind that maybe we could lose but batting last, chasing 370 is a tough ask for any team."

Other captains may have become nervous or defensive. But Amla did not because he enjoyed the shifting sands in the tussle. "I was confident and I was extremely excited because the uncertainty is quite exciting. The thought was there that we could lose this game but if we lost the game I wouldn't have had any regrets," he said.

"It helped that the bowlers were hungry. They asked for the ball regularly. Once we picked up one and I could see how the game is unfolding, I tried to use the spinners to hold the game more because the seamers were doing the job today."

Steyn struck the first blow, Morkel joined in and then when JP Duminy snared Kumar Sangakkara with a long-hop, Amla knew he had his victory even though it came from an unexpected source. "Some plans you don't tell the captain, you just give the bowlers the freedom to do what they want," he joked. "Those kind of things, I mean how often do you see a good ball not get a wicket and then a not so good ball get a wicket? It's just part of the game."

In celebration, South Africa may salute their muses. The team's is likely that they are a massive step closer to regaining the No.1 ranking. Steyn's is Donald and Amla's? "A nice cup of tea to enjoy the win." As long as it's Ceylon tea, even Sri Lankans will approve of that.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent