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Dale Steyn: South African Fast Bowling Machine

Dale Steyn; the greatest South African fast bowling machine to ever wield the red ball recently announced his retirement from Test Cricket.

DT
Last updated: 09.08.2019
Dale Steyn: South African Fast Bowling Machine | Sports Social Blog

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It is often said that Test Cricket is the ‘ultimate’ form of cricket. And rest assured, only the greats; those who are meant to go a long distance can truly sustain themselves in it.

 

By that count, it is only fitting that Dale Steyn emerged as the greatest South African fast bowling machine to ever wield the red ball.

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Some pace bowlers are just fast. Take Brett Lee, Shaun Tait or Jason Gillespie or Chaminda Vaas for example.

 

Some are furious. Take Mitchell Johnson or Dennis Lillee for instance.

 

But, at his pomp, Dale Steyn was fast and furious, and angry. He was insufferable. He was Curtly Ambrose with a rapider action. He was a torpedo waiting to launch into the batsmen.

 

18 ahead of the evergreen Shaun Pollock, 49 ahead of the powerful Mkhaya Ntini, and 109 ahead of the ‘white lightening’ Allan Donald.

 

Dale Steyn, with 439 Test wickets, outpaced luminaries of his cricket-adoring country, topping the wicket-taking column as the man responsible for most Test wickets, ever, for a South African.

 

But you realize the true magnificence of this great athlete of our times, when you realize how quickly did he climb to his wickets tally.

 

It took Steyn 15 fewer Tests than Pollock and 8 less than Nitini to climb up to 439 Test wickets.

 

You also understand the efficiency of Steyn’s impact when you take cognizance of the fact that it took him 5700 fewer Test deliveries than the great Pollock to collect his Test wickets.


 

What’s more?

 

He even bowled 2200 lesser balls in Tests than Ntini to reach his milestone.

 

But now, it seems, Steyn’s already bowled his last Test delivery and he shall not bowl ever again in a format he truly excelled at and one in which he maximized his potential.

 

Having announced his retirement from five-dayers, his increasingly fragile but muscular body no longer capable to withstand the withering demands of Test Cricket, Steyn’s hung his white jersey.

 

But that’s not before appearing in 93 Tests, bowling in 171 innings, clinching 26 fifers and 5 ten-fors.

 

For the better part of his career, when not ailing from recurring physical injuries and the excesses of starring in cross-format cricket, Dale Steyn was responsible for depositing fear into the minds of batsmen.

 

Something most fast bowlers set out to achieve. Something few manage to demonstrate.

 

He didn’t arrive, but burst onto the Test cricket scene in 2004 and immediately made an impact in his first year, taking 6 wickets from just 70 overs that year.

 

His first wicket in Test Cricket was bore the mode of dismissal we’ve all come to identify Steyn fervently with.

 

A cracker of a quick delivery that broke through the often-impenetrable Marcus Trescothick’s defences, with the stumps fleeing the ground, Steyn was a flying saucer at Port Elizabeth’s First Test.

 

This was a time when the likes of Mkhaya Ntini were at their peak having played cricket for half a decade and the likes of Pollock were nearing their swansong.

 

A new force around which the encore of the famed Protean Safari could be built was urgently needed.


 

So Dale Steyn responded.

 

Playing alongside the elder statesman of the game, Jacques Kallis, and forging his strengths around the confidence that Smith and AB provided, Steyn was the lone bright star in the fast-bowling department as the batting cauldron still bore heavyweights.

 

2006-2008 saw Steyn collect 142 of his 439 wickets exhibiting raw pace on any kinds of surface.

 

This period produced hostile, unfriendly, cold and back-breaking bowling performances, such as the famous 4 for 76 at the Headingly Test. He could bring the ball in, he could move it away from batsmen, he could induce an edge, and often trample the batsmen over the edge beyond which lay the eventual fall.

 

The Dale Steyn of 2010-13 was fiery, frequently injured but still scary as a nightmare, collecting 178 wickets, including his career-best 7 for 51.

 

Few bowlers would’ve found a way to bully a Sachin, Dhoni, Gambhir, Sehwag powered side on a flat batting track at Nagpur.

 

But then, wasn’t the ‘Steyn-Gun’ a special, once in a millennium cricketer?

 

On the same track where Amla and Kallis delivered a masterclass in batsmanship, Dale Steyn found a way to bully Indians on their own turf. While the likes of Zaheer Khan and Ishant bowled 59 overs among them to take just 3, Steyn bowled a third lesser and clinched 7 wickets.

 

If anyone was wanting to seek a magic-spell in a fast-forward mode, then this was it.

 

But the Steyn from 2015 onward became someone with less bite, someone who had largely become a representation of a tired body, arguably suffering from the toll of playing constant gut-wrenching cricket.

 

The pace was still very much there, but the nagging accuracy, maybe not so much.

 

Somewhere you felt that the chiseled frame, throbbing veins and skiddy run-up didn’t possess the poisonous, very snake-like hiss. The injuries had taken over. Too much time spent on recovery meant missing important tours.

 

And there we have it.

 

What lies ahead of Dale Steyn at 36, is hopefully, lots of ODIs and T20s. But that’s only if the master of the ball can tame the art of self-preservation. 

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