TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
DALE Steyn has missed SA’s last dozen one-day internationals and he joked last month that he “can’t even make the one-day team at the moment”.
But, on the eve of the first ODI between SA and Australia at Centurion on Friday, the stalwart flamethrower hogged more than his fair share of the pre-match spotlight.
“Dale’s personality sometimes is a bit cranky,” SA captain Faf du Plessis said on Thursday. “That’s why you see that fire when he gets a wicket and that’s why we love him like that.”
After months out with groin and shoulder injuries Steyn emerged triumphant in the test series against New Zealand last month, taking 10 wickets at 10.20 – which included a match haul of 8/99 at Centurion.
That silenced observers who had wondered if, at 33 and with his body apparently failing him, Steyn’s storied career was over.
“I think he felt like that from the test series when he came back, felt like he needed to prove a point,” Du Plessis said.
“If you don’t produce the goods regularly people are going to ask questions and that comes with its own pressures.
“Now he is back in the one-day team and he will try and make a huge impact and try and show everyone that one-day cricket is still a big part of his future.”
To hear Du Plessis tell it, all Steyn needs to take wickets is to be introduced.
“The fear that he puts into opposition, the name itself,” Du Plessis said. “You have a few guys around the world who can do that.
“They’ve done well for a while and they put that doubt in your head as an opposition because of the name.
“If Dale is fit and 100% and wants to bowl quick he is an extremely big asset.”
Australia captain Steve Smith was wary of Steyn visiting the same kind violence on his men as he did on the Kiwis.
“I watched the test series against New Zealand, where he was almost back to his best,” Smith said. “I think he’s been left out of their one-day side for a while, so he’s probably out to prove a point.
“No doubt he’ll be up and ready to go.”
The conditions at Centurion on Friday should suit skiddy, swingy fast bowlers like Steyn.
Which could make the Australians rue resting pace aces Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood for the series.
Instead they will be spearheaded by the relatively inexperienced Scott Boland and John Hastings.
But the South Africans will be mindful of being bowled a googly by that theory.
Australian leg spinner Adam Zampa was more successful than any of SA’s quicks in a triangular series in the West Indies in June, and no bowler has claimed more wickets in ODIs in 2016 than his total of 25.
“I can’t speak highly enough about him,” Smith said of Zampa. “He’s done a terrific job.
“He understands his skills well and he reads the batsmen very well.
“That’s one of his big strengths, making sure both him and I sum up the situation and that he bowls to the situation.
Centurion’s surface is about as far as cricket gets from the desperately slow, ripping turners that were rolled out in the Caribbean.
But, like Steyn, Zampa is a quality bowler.
And bugger the state of the pitch.