TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
YOU wouldn’t expect an Australian to say this: “Dale Steyn is just coming back from in injury but he’s the class act that all fast bowlers of this generation aspire to be like.”
Or this: “They aspire to have the record that he has and the longevity he has had.”
Or even this: “That’s the sign of a champion, that you’re around for long enough to be classified as that.
“Dale’s done that.”
But all of the above did in fact come from an Australian. And not just any Aussie – that was Adam Gilchrist in conversation with website cricket.com.au.
Not that Steyn is just any Saffer. Not with 416 wickets to his name. Another half-dozen scalps and he will surpass Shaun Pollock as SA’s most prolific test wicket-taker.
Gilchrist played the last of his 12 tests against SA more than two-and-a-half years before the fast bowler tangled with the Australians in a test for the first time.
That was in December 2008 when he was part of SA’s six-wicket win at the WACA, the initial success in their first series win in Australia.
Almost four years later Steyn was back in Perth to play in the third test of the 2012-13 rubber.
He took seven wickets as SA won by 309 runs to claim the series 1-0.
On Saturday Steyn will return to Perth with the rest of SA’s squad to finalise preparations for the first test, which starts at the WACA next Thursday.
Steyn, recovered from the groin and shoulder injuries that kept him out of six of the eight tests SA played last season, is central to the visitors’ hopes of clinching a hat-trick of series victories in Australia.
Mitchell Starc, who will return from rest and recuperation after gashing his shin during training, is that man for Australia.
New South Wales batted first in their Sheffield Shield opener against Queensland at the Gabba on Tuesday, which meant Starc didn’t get a chance to bowl. But he did clip 36 not out off 28 balls batting at No. 9.
Starc’s likely new-ball partner, Josh Hazlewood, also plays for Queensland and so also didn’t bowl on Tuesday.
The Aussies’ third seamer is likely to be Victoria’s Peter Siddle or Tasmania’s Jackson Bird – who are in opposite dressingrooms in their states’ match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Bird took 1/53 in 22 overs on Tuesday, when stumps arrived with Siddle padded up and waiting to bat.
Could they earn a test cap based on their performance in this match?
“They certainly can over the next few days I would think,” Australian coach Darren Lehmann told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday.
“(Siddle) looked really good in the (domestic one-day competition) and by all reports he’s got some zing and zip back.
“His record is exceptional – he bowls good line and length and can complement Mitchell, but so can Jackson Bird.”
Siddle has come back promisingly from a stress fracture of the back he sustained in February.
“It’s probably the hardest thing to answer until you know whether they’re fit or not,” Lehmann said of Siddle’s chances of playing in the first test.
The most noteworthy performance on Tuesday was delivered at the Gabba, where Steve Smith scored 117 for NSW.
Smith, who presided over the 5-0 thrashing SA handed Australia in their one-day series earlier in October, which followed his team’s 3-0 hammering in a test series in Sri Lanka, will captain Australia.