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March 26, 2014
Dale Steyn is as light-hearted off the field as he is intense with ball in hand. For a man whose furrowed brow at the top of his mark can make batsmen involuntarily feel for the ball outside off, he is endearingly goofy in person, laughing at himself, deflecting praise and letting his thoughts tumble out. He even uses the word "rad".
Steyn is also the leading bowler among the teams to have entered the World T20 at the Super 10 stage, with six wickets from two games. Asked about his feat on Monday, when he won the match with seven runs needed off the final over against New Zealand - the lowest number defended in T20s and only the third time it had been done- he said: "I didn't think I could win it but we did, so bonus!"
Contrast that with the fire in Steyn's eyes as he collected the final delivery of the match, broke the wicket at the non-striker's end and propelled his wiry frame on a giddy victory dance looking like the world's angriest policeman.
It is perhaps no wonder that such a fidgety, high-energy player does not like being confined to a hotel for long periods. Players are generally not allowed out for security reasons - though on Wednesday he tweeted a video of himself and Paddy Upton skateboarding along a closed road and waving at grinning locals. You can imagine Steyn donning a disguise to sneak past the guards and post pictures of his adventure on Instagram, if he had to.
But while Steyn is an outdoors type whose fitness levels can encompass takeaway pizza or the odd McFlurry, he revealed that some of the players have a slightly more refined way of passing the time in Bangladesh.
"It's been so difficult. We have a wine club, we meet every now and then and have one or two glasses of vino," he said, without divulging who was most likely to become a sommelier as a second career. "We've got a movie club, we have a big team room at the hotel, so we get in there, whether playing poker or watching movies or things like that. We're not really allowed to leave the hotel much. There's a Pizza Hut across the road. I've never eaten so much pizza in my life."
He also chuckled at the suggestion he is now the team's "Special One", after Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, having prevented South Africa from suffering a second group defeat. That title should naturally go to the coach, Russell Domingo, he said.
Still, the importance of that win was not lost on Steyn, speaking ahead of South Africa's third Group 1 match, against Netherlands. He chose to emphasise the contribution of others, in particular his bowling partner Morne Morkel, who conceded 14 off the penultimate over but managed two dots from his last three balls. In T20, those are the margins between getting your aeroplane tickets home and the chance to taste another Shiraz or two before the trip is over.
"The mood in the camp could have been completely different if we'd lost that game," he said, "I think it would have been tickets for us. In this tournament it is kind of tickets if you don't win all your games. It's difficult, the little one percenters. If you go back to the game, Morne went for a lot of runs, which is an odd thing but it happens. People might criticise him but, his last three balls, he bowled three death yorkers and the last one went for four. If he had gone for two and one in those previous balls it would have been down to three or four off the last over and that would have been almost impossible.
"The little one percenters really count in this game. Just those little things, he might have walked away from the game feeling hard done by from not getting what he wanted but he finished off exactly how he was supposed to and ultimately we won the game."
Steyn suggested South Africa are in a "win-everything" situation, although it is still possible for a team to go through on four points. Sri Lanka have set the pace with two wins already and Steyn had some sympathy with the Netherlands, after they were gutted for 39 on Monday evening. "If you're not facing those type of guys all the time it can be quite difficult," he said, referring to the challenge of playing mystery spin or Lasith Malinga's sui generis yorkers. As Netherlands will find out, Steyn is also in a bracket all of his own.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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