Dale Steyn's strike-rate of a wicket every 45 balls is second on the all-time South African list © AFP

If Inzamam-ul-Haq dominates the "Inzamam Test" it will be a fairy-tale end to a career that started like a fairy tale but included more wicked witches than Cinderella as it neared its end. Intriguingly, the man most likely to ensure it has an unhappy end is pretty much living a fairy tale of his own.

Dale Steyn did not come wrapped in conventional fast bowlers' packaging. For a start he still looks too small and too short even after four years of fitness-training and gym work and he neither talks nor acts like a "conventional" fast bowler. His lack of aggression on the field is a faithful reproduction of his character and personality off it.

"He is reluctant to bowl flat out, and that can be frustrating for a captain and a coach. He doesn't ever seem to want to just let it rip, and sometimes you want him to do that," says Titans coach Richard Pybus, clearly perplexed as to why someone with the ability to bowl at 150kph doesn't ever want to try and knock a batsman's head off. But Steyn is Steyn, he is like no other.

The most often repeated anecdote concerning his first-class debut is the one about how his team-mates tried hard to conspire with him against English-speaking opposition. Anybody called Dale Steyn, from the Afrikaans backwater of Phalaborwa, would be fluent in the language, of course. Not.

Steyn, having kickstarted his career by turning up at nets one day a la Waqar Younis and several other great fast bowlers, was an unknown. And his Zimbabwean, English-speaking heritage was, to say the least, unexpected for his new team-mates. After a mere 11 first-class games, he made his debut for South Africa. It was more than he could cope with.

He bowled some spectacular deliveries and some woeful ones, too, probably in equal measure. But an 18-month break from the national team gave him time to settle and his current tally of 49 wickets from 12 Tests at an average of 29 promises great things. His strike-rate of a wicket every 45 balls is second on the all-time South African list. For the moment.

His partnership in the first Test with Titans team-mate Paul Harris, the left-arm spinner, was crucial. "We work well as a team," says Steyn. "Harry bowed so well that there were no runs coming from his end. That helps a fast bowler so much."

After a mere 11 first-class games, he made his debut for South Africa. It was more than he could cope with

Steyn, however, is not just benefiting from the endeavours at the other end. His role has been clearly defined for the first time and the worries and anxiety about run-rate and "control" have subsided.

"I'm allowed to go for four runs an over now ... maybe! My role has been defined to me very nicely and clearly," said Steyn. "It is to run in, 4-5 over spells, to break partnerships. The captain wants wickets from me and it's a fantastic feeling to know that he, and my team-mates, back me to do that."

Asked whether he'd enjoy spoiling Inzamam's celebratory farewell, Steyn's eyes light up before his good-natured side kicks in. "It would be very nice to get him. I have taken his wicket before in Cape Town the last time we played. He's a great player. I hope he has the occasion he deserves in his last Test, but that doesn't mean I don't want his wicket."

It may be true that Steyn is too "soft" to be a world-beater at the moment, but the opposite may be true, too. Perhaps he will be the smiling assassin South Africa have never had. Either way, there's nothing soft about his approach to the second Test.

"We don't want to play for the draw. We started the first Test with all guns blazing and it worked very well for us, why would we decide to change that approach? We start the second Test full of confidence."

Neil Manthorp is a South African broadcaster and journalist, and head of the MWP Sport agency