No. 1 Test bowler Steyn one wicket from reaching 300-haul milestone

2012-12-07 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Dale Steyn, still the world’s No. 1-ranked Test bowler, fittingly ought to reach his 300-wicket milestone at the home ground of his domestic franchise the Cape Cobras here over New Year.

Newlands stages the first domestic Test match of the summer from January 2-6, the opener of two contests with New Zealand, and the Phalaborwa Express, assuming he is fit for it, needs the relative formality of one scalp to reach 300 in his 61st five-day appearance for the Proteas.

The word “formality” is used because Steyn has only ever once before gone wicketless in a Test match — and that was probably only because he very unusually succumbed to injury after bowling just 10 overs against India at the Wanderers in December 2006.

The tourists humbled their more fancied hosts by 123 runs in that first Test, although the Proteas did roar back to claim the series 2-1.

If Steyn does achieve the feat in traditionally the most iconic and best-attended Test match of the local season, he will draw level with the illustrious names of Richard Hadlee (New Zealand) and Malcolm Marshall (West Indies) as third fastest to 300.

The record is still held by Australian pace legend Dennis Lillee, who got there in 56 Tests.

Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralitharan is next best (58).

Steyn has drawn special praise from Mark Nicholas, the English host of Channel 9’s cricket coverage in Australia, who also spent time among the SuperSport commentators during South Africa’s 1-0 series triumph Down Under recently.

Writing a series summary on the Cricinfo website, the former Hampshire captain said Aussie skipper Michael Clarke would have known as the teams entered the decisive Perth Test that “key members of the opposition had air left in their lungs … first among them was Steyn”.

Nicholas enthused: “[Steyn is] a bowler of such excellence that when the force is with him, events will invariably turn the way of his team.

“As at The Oval last July, Steyn chose the second morning of a crucial Test to cast his spell.

“Sprinting to the wicket with unparalleled zeal, releasing the ball from a perfect wrist position and following through with the skip and commitment of a Springbok outwitting its hunter, the world’s finest fast bowler accounted for David Warner before the first advertisement break, nightwatchman Nathan Lyon before the cappuccinos and Clarke before drinks.

“Few bowlers can do this — change the rhythm of a match so quickly and conclusively.

“One who could was looking on and purring approval: the best of Steyn is not far from Dennis Lillee, who was perhaps the best of them all.”

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