TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
DALE Steyn arrived at the gates of greatness after just less than half-an-hour’s play in the second test between Bangladesh and SA in Dhaka on Thursday. It had taken him 3 877 days as a test cricketer and 16 634 deliveries to get there.
The fateful ball veered full and wide, the stroke was poorly considered and even more poorly played, and the catch at first slip was bog standard.
The scorebook entry, too, won’t look like much in years to come: Tamim Iqbal c Amla b Steyn 6.
But there was nothing ordinary about any of the above. It made Steyn only the second South African after Shaun Pollock and the 13th cricketer overall to take 400 test wickets.
How did that one make him feel?
“No real different to any of the other ones I’ve taken,” Steyn said after Bangladesh limped to stumps on 246/8.
Was it the best moment of his career?
“No. Most definitely not. It’s nice to have the numbers but I’ve had a lot better moments in my cricketing career. Winning games for my country has always been objective No. 1. But it’s cool – it’s nice to have 400.”
So nice, in fact, that Steyn whipped off the sweatband he has taken to wearing in Bangladesh to keep his hair out of his eyes; an affectation that makes him look less like Dennis Lillee and more like Bjorn Borg.
“It’s pretty cool to take a wicket and get the headband off and the hair out. I think I’ve taken some abuse about my hair. Funnily enough, it doesn’t influence the bowling at all. So, I guess, shut up.”
“I just want to play every game. I want to bowl again tomorrow. I want to bowl again the next time SA pick me.
“I would have been very happy if I had taken just one wicket in my international career. I was privileged enough to play for SA and take wickets for SA. And I managed to get 400. I never thought that would happen; ever in my life.”
The only active bowler with more wickets than Steyn is England’s James Anderson, who had 412 before the start of Australia’s second innings in Birmingham on Thursday.
Steyn claimed 3/30 on Thursday, evidence of a return to form after – by his standards – a lacklustre World Cup and a quiet Indian Premier League (IPL).
And, like James Brown …
“I feel good right now even after bowling all day and spending time in the sun; it’s a good flow. Sometimes if you don’t have that love or passion for the game, things don’t go your way.
“I love what I am doing right now, even if it’s in 40 degree heat and the ball is staying ankle high and its not bouncing and there’s no seam and its very slow. Shit, I love it.
“There was a period after the IPL when I actually didn’t want to have a ball in my hand. I needed two or three weeks – maybe four weeks – to get that love back again.
“When you’ve got it you just don’t want to let it go. I just love being on the field right now.”
And well might have on SA’s best day in Bangladesh since they won the second one-day international on July 10.
With Hashim Amla using creative captaincy to make bowling changes and set fields, SA kept the pressure on the Bangladeshis even though Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Simon Harmer did not fire on all cylinders.
But JP Duminy did for his haul of 3/27, and Dean Elgar delivered another brilliant impersonation of a test bowler in taking 1/22. And a bloke called Steyn did pretty well, too.