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Facing Dale Steyn


Facing_Dale_Steyn_Cricket_fast_bowlingInebriated is the state of creativity. Inhibitions are lowered, fears squashed and creative juices mixed with a bit of rum and coke gush through veins bringing stupid ideas to the fore. A germ of an idea culminates into a breathtakingly beautiful artistic expression of the high that is drunkenness. Inebriation. It is perhaps also, the only way to tackle Dale Steyn when he gets the ball to move the way he did against Pakistan. He ended up with match figures of 36.5-16-60-11.

These are envious figures. It gives birth to the kind of jealousy Shane Warne felt when he looked at Liz Hurley's figure and said, 'I want that.' In batsmen, it generates fear. The 'wet your pants' kind of fear. Steyn on song makes even fear, fear facing him. So what must be going through the batsman's mind as he witnesses a red leather orb being hurled at his pads and then shaping away making him look like an amateur golfer trying his hand at cricket?

As he takes guard on leg stump, wishing he was at the non-striker's end, Steyn gets ready to run in.

Ball 1

Steyn runs in gingerly and lets the ball go outside off. It swings away quite harmlessly. The batsman is more than happy to leave it alone. A false sense of security creeps into the mind.

The batsman thinks, 'Eh! He's not that tough to play. I think I'll handle him quite easily.'

Ball 2

The pace is not up yet. Still around 130 kmph. This time Steyn gets it in the right area. The ball pitches just slightly outside off, forcing the batsman to play at it. The ball swings and beats the bat.

The batsman, 'Damn it! Play late. Play late. I could have left that ball alone. Play late.'

Ball 3

Steyn goes for the magic ball. Tries to swing it away from leg stump. The ball doesn't swing as much, but enough to keep the batsman honest.

The batsman, ' The ball is on the leg stump. Maybe I can flick it away. Wait! The ball is starting to swing. Play late. Play straight. Defend. Good. That hit the middle. All I have to do is play foward, late and straight.'

Ball 4

The batsman, 'This ball is going to be full and swinging away. I'll push forward and leave the ball if it's outside off.'

Steyn runs in hard. He bowls a bouncer at 140 kmph. It's well directed. Straight at the helmet.

The batsman, 'Shit! It's a short ball. Duck! Duck! Duck! God please let it miss me!'
The ball whizzes just over the ducking batsman as he begins to believe in the epiphanous power of prayer.

Ball 5

The batsman, 'This one has to be full. He just bowled a bouncer to push me back. If it's a drivable length, I'm going to thread it through covers.'

(What the batsman doesn't realize in the heat of the moment is, the fact that he is expecting a full ball makes it that much more effective.)

Steyn runs in harder this time. As expected, he puts the ball up. Breaking his wrists harder, running his fingers down the seam, he imparts enough backspin on the ball. The ball promises to swing late.

Batsman, 'As expected it's full. This one is going to the boundary.'

The ball is just outside off. It holds its line for as long as possible. The batsman is committed to the cover drive. Being one of the prettiest shots in cricket, it is also the shot batsmen want to play the most. Just as it is about to make contact with the pitch, the ball begins to swing away from the right handed batsman. The batsman has already begun his bat swing by then.

The batsman, ' Shit!!'

The shot is played. One of two things will happen. If lady luck is attracted to the freshness of the batsman at the crease, the ball misses the edge and thuds into the hands of the keeper.

If the batsman's karma wants payback, the edge is taken and South Africa being a quality side as they are right now, the alternative of the catch being dropped is unlikely.

So if lady luck wins the battle against karma, the batsman secretly curses her and shudders at the prospect of playing the next delivery. Pride swallowed, all he wants to do is survive and get to the other end.

Ball 6

Another beauty. Pitches on the length of uncertainty, which is pretty much anywhere close to the batsman at this point. It swings just a bit too much. Misses the edge.

This is an over from Dale Steyn. Classy batsmen like Clarke and Sachin managed to survive by playing the line of the ball and not chasing after the swing. Misbah-ul-Haq survived by keeping his back lift short and offering a dead bat to most deliveries.

Eventually, there will come a ball that makes the batsman's balls jump up and hide, pleading to its master to take it back to the dressing room. The master must oblige. The balls' command is the master's wish.

In the next article, we analyse the havoc Steyn and Morkel have wreaked in the recent past.

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