SA not singing in the rain

Sunday Times


“MAROONED in a Monsoon” is a dollop of jaunty jazz recorded by the Shorty Rogers Quintet in 1957. It was also Dale Steyn’s fate in Chittagong on Saturday.

Friday night’s ceaseless rain left the field sodden, and the deluge continued into the afternoon. That meant the fifth day’s play in the first test between Bangladesh and SA was abandoned without the teams leaving their hotel for hours after the scheduled start, much less bowling or facing a ball. The same sad thing had happened the day before.

“We’ve come all the way from SA, so you want to be playing cricket,” Hashim Amla said on Saturday. “The game was poised in our favour, I feel.”

The last time a ball was indeed bowled and faced, on Thursday afternoon, Steyn edged as close as dammit to one of cricket’s more meaningful milestones.

Mustafizur Rahman, the 19-year-old fast bowler who might one day wear a mantle that glitters something like Steyn’s, jigged away from the latter’s bouncer and tried to ramp the ball over gully. From backward point, JP Duminy swooped to take a neat catch.

With that Steyn had his 399th test wicket. Among South Africans only Shaun Pollock knows that feeling, and for now he is the only one who has gone a wicket better.

That Steyn will reach 400 – surely during the second test that starts in Dhaka on Thursday – is assured. By how many wickets he will surpass Pollock’s 421 is less certain. He is a great fast bowler. But, at 32, he is raging hard against the dying of his dominance.

As a team, SA might feel as if they stumbled onto a similar spiral in this match. They have been, officially, test cricket’s crackest unit since August, 2012; bar a three-month aberration last year when Australia nudged ahead in the rankings.

But, in Chittagong, SA struggled against opponents they should have thrashed. Instead, when hostilities ceased they were neither high nor dry and 17 runs behind.

There’s nothing jazzy about that.


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