TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
“MY last game for Jamaica tonight,” Dale Steyn tweeted on Wednesday. “Come down and scream your heads off at Sabina Park!”
The fans did, and Steyn rewarded them with a haul of 4/27 to bowl the Jamaica Tallawahs to victory over the Barbados Tridents.
Steyn duelled lustily. He was smacked for two sixes and two fours but also took all his wickets in the space of 19 balls, removing Kieron Pollard and David Wiese three deliveries apart.
That, as well as a stand of 127 between Chadwick Walton and Kumar Sangakkara, sealed Jamaica’s place in the semi-finals.
Wednesday’s performance was Steyn’s best at this year’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and put him one scalp behind Sohail Tanvir as the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
In 25.5 overs Steyn took 12 wickets at an average of 14.66. By the sometimes soft standards of events like the CPL, that might not mean much. But the significant sticks of Martin Guptill, Dwayne Bravo, Colin Munro and Carlos Brathwaite were part of Steyn’s bundle.
So why was this his last game for the franchise? Because his contractual obligations to Cricket SA demand his attendance at the organisation’s awards dinner in Johannesburg on Tuesday.
Call it boardroom bumptiousness or suitorial stupidity, or more evidence that those who think they are in control aren’t going to be able to take their much needed reality check with their heads stuck so far down in the sand.
Whatever. South Africans won’t complain that Steyn is on his way home in one piece and, apparently, firing like he hasn’t done for months.
They will hope that the injuries that took him out of the equation for most of SA’s test series against India and England last season are unhappy memories rather than signs of things to come for a bowler who, at 33 years old, the last dozen of them spent roaring in like a man possessed by his own gift, can’t have much time left at the top.
“When I started bowling quickly and someone saw me bowl fast, they said, ‘Oh, you bowl fast? Never stop bowling fast’,” Steyn said in video interviews released by a sponsor.
But he has learnt a few things in the fast lane.
“Cricket has taught me many lessons over the years and they’re all relevant to different stages of your life,” Steyn said.
“Right now I guess patience is the one thing that cricket is teaching me, and that’s relevant to my life right now.”
New Zealand will play two tests in SA in the second half of August, the first engagement in a programme of 15 tests, up to 24 one-day internationals and seven T20s against Ireland, Australia, Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan and India – and whoever SA play if they reach the Champions Trophy knockout rounds – that stretches into next August.
Steyn won’t play all of those games, even if he is in better physical shape than he has been at any stage of his career.
But, as has been the case for most of his career, if he stays fit he will be relied on to win more than his fair share of them.
Patience, then, will be more than a virtue for him and those urging him on. Instead, it will be vital.