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South Africa's Steyngun

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Dale_Steyn_South_Africa_cricket_SABatsmen prefer to stand beside him rather than facing up to him. The umpires feel begrudged at lacking opportunities of signaling a boundary, let alone indicating a six scored of him. Through his highs, the art of fast bowling has metamorphosed into being a mayhem that can cause disorder to any batting order, a hint of a glorious reminder of the glory days of Malcolm Marshal, Jeff Thompson and Dennis Lillie. And at his pompous best, he reminds one of the nightmares that rabid pace can cause to fragile batting orders.

Fast and furious, often enraged in midst of the cricket field, and exhibiting as much passion in his craft as the devotion that is needed to excel in the game, Dale Steyn is a parable of South Africa's continued dominance in the great game of cricket.

The trailblazer of speed

About to turn 33, and having already become the joint second fastest bowler to reach 400 wickets, Steyn seems at his best, despite being marred by a recent string of injuries. For a team that has often produced a checkered marquee of outstanding cricketing talents, it isn't too baffling to note that the most feared bowler in the world hails from world cricket's most sensational hunting ground.

South Africa has been the turf from which iconic cricketing stories emanate and in Dale Steyn's rise to prominence, it has fairy-tailed the world of cricket with a strikingly passionate story, of a man who notoriously seems unsatisfied despite having crowned his nation with lasting monuments echoing with trail-blazing speed.

Cleaning up adversaries abroad

But it is also important to reflect on what makes Steyn a handy contestant that none fancy facing. While some may regard that the invariable bounce that South African pitches extract from seamers goes a long way in establishing their credentials but, for a good bowler to be great, he needs to adapt to varying conditions around the world. And Steyn's pace bandwagon has exhibited vivacious returns for the Proteas. From the 406 test scalps Steyn has bagged from 82 tests, 175  have come on foreign tours where he's made a bit of a habit of staying consistently in the business of disturbing batsmen's timber, exhibited by his 10 five wicket hauls and 2 ten wicket hauls. When examining Steyn in the same bracket of the past legends, it is important to reflect that none of the modern masters have managed to bag just 10 wickets shy of 100 scalps at the subcontinent and Steyn with 90 wickets whilst playing in the subcontinent is way ahead of Donald, Ntini, Pollock, Walsh, Ambrose and Thompson and Lillie.

It seems that there's something about Asia that brings the venomous Dale Steyn out in the forefront. His 90 scalps here are underlined by 26 wickets against India, 20 versus Bangladesh and 21 against Sri Lanka, with pitches across the three nations being anything but bowler friendly, lamented often as being flat surfaces.

Roaring at home

Back at South Africa, Steyn is a different creature altogether, more imposing and undaunted by the pressure to work up a euphoria in front of crowds. Akin to a lion unleashing itself on its prey at the back of his den, displaying characteristic pomp, Dale Steyn through his 231 thumping dismissals has eloped with heaps of wickets, picking 65 at Newlands(Cape Town), 48 at New Wanderers (Johannesburg), 42 at Kingsmead (Durban) and 48 at Centurion Park.

From the beginning, Steyn exhibited poisonous fangs, something you'd dare not mess with. He was forever the tireless soldier, readying to march on for the progression of South Africa. He picked up a seven-for in only his fourth game against New Zealand in 2006. That was also a period underlined by Steyn's penchant for going steaming fast and hitting the deck hard, a facet with which he gripped the likes of Pakistan and Sri Lanka with fivers. Interestingly, he came back with another seven-for against the Windies in January, 2015. That kind of consistency over that length of time does not come often and the likes of Allan Donald, inarguably the most popular fast bowling spearhead from South Africa before Steyn came steaming in, has himself acknowledged that. According to Donald, Steyn's trump card is the fact that he's never satisfied with himself. Not the one to fire a loose cannon, Donald's regard for Steyn is heightened by Steyn's fantastic capturing of 25 five wicket hauls and his regard for the painfully correct tedium of going hard at batsmen, a facet he hasn't parted with regardless of him bamboozling batsmen vilified in the press soon after, having failed to pick up Steyn's rabid pace.

The energy that is Dale Steyn

But there's a lot about Dale Steyn that makes him the unputdownable character that he is in modern cricket, besides the wickets. It's his preparation and ability to go an extra yard quicker in the game than what the pitch offers. The massively feisty run up, those throbbing veins, that exultation after beating the batsman's blade and the massive emotional upheaval that finds its place somewhere in the middle of maniacal aggression and retribution, Steyn is pure energy out in the middle.

And like most great fast bowlers, he isn't too aware of the charisma his stats generate or the power with which they make South Africa an enormous power in world cricket. He prefers to keep his head down and focus on the action, in his case the three idle stumps guarded by the batsman who wishes to face up to his brute challenge. He respects the legendary band of the 'have been' in Proteas cricket. When Steyn was that enthusiastic kid waiting to exhale on the big stage, the likes of Jack Kallis, Ntini, Pollock and Donald were coming up with aces all over the world.

How he stacks up against his great predecessors

It's important to reflect on Steyn's predecessors. Between them, Kallis and Pollock have played 93 tests and triumphed with 547 wickets. Similarly, Pollock and Ntini, the latter being an underrated legend, have clinched 538 wickets from as many tests. Donald and Pollock however, scalped 332 wickets from just 38 tests, at an astonishingly good average of 20.9. Since the time, Dale Steyn took over, it has to be said without making any bones, that he's benefitted with Morne Morkel being his new ball partner. With sun setting on the famous trio of Donald, Ntini and Pollock, fans were curious to see what would become of South Africa's league of 'extraordinary pace-men' until Styen arrived on the big stage. From 60 tests, Morkel and Steyn have already picked up a staggering 507 wickets, hunting in pairs and doing what they do best- castling the world's best batsmen. But while critics may grin with anguish they'd find it hard to disregard the fact that Steyn's era has been one that is purely skewed toward batsmen, leaving bowlers to create chances to strike. The field restrictions and shorter grounds and those batting power plays, just how lop sided has cricket become for a fast bowler to ace with pace?

A shinning legacy

But while statistics will hugely regard numbers over impact as they should and we may soon have someone knocking over Steyn's heroic stack of records, a thing can be said for certain! That in a batsman's game, he conquered the pitch and helped South Africa threaten its opponents in a fashion that best suits their game- with daring and guile. There isn't a blithe in him and what you see are only stains of achievements and a few aces up his sleeve. Take a bow Dale Steyn.

 

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