Hobbling, heroic Steyn earns skipper's praise

Dale Steyn (Gallo)
Dale Steyn (Gallo)

Cape Town - When Dale Steyn arrived at Newlands on Monday morning, Day 4 of the first Test against India, he was wearing a moonboot and had just been ruled out of the remainder of the series. 

Just a couple of hours later, he found himself out in the middle facing Indian speedster Bhuvneshwar Kumar with the Proteas in heaps of trouble at 130/9 having already lost seven wickets in the session. 

Steyn, with damaged tissue in his left heel, should not have been anywhere near a cricket field. Then again, he has never been the type of cricketer to back down from a challenge. 

With AB de Villiers stranded out in the middle, Steyn swapped his moonboot for his spikes and hobbled out to the wicket to a hero's welcome from the Newlands crowd. 

Unfortunately, it didn't help the South African cause and after Steyn had shielded out four deliveries, De Villiers was gone without adding a run when he was out hacking over mid-wicket. 

"The chat in the changeroom was obviously for Dale not to bat," captain Faf du Plessis explained after the match.

"We don’t want to injure him more, but we said that if AB was there Dale could just go and stand there and hopefully AB can smash a few sixes.

"Credit to Dale … he had his pads on before we even thought of mentioning it to him. He wanted to get out there."

Steyn, playing in his first Test match since injuring his shoulder in 2016, had shown glimpses of his former self and he had gotten through 17.3 overs before he landed in a foot-hole and damaged his heel. 

His figures of 2/51 in that first innings mean that he is now just three wickets away from breaking Shaun Pollock's record of 421 as South Africa's all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. 

Du Plessis was clearly gutted for a man who, last week, he called the best bowler in the world. 

"I feel incredibly bad for Dale. I know, having gone through injuries myself, that it takes a lot of time and effort to get back," Du Plessis said.

"Dale worked for a year and he was challenged through periods where he started and got injured again.

"It was great to see him back to his best. Standing at slip we felt like he could nick guys off at any time. You were just happy to see Dale Steyn back on the park so this is a huge setback for him.

"Luckily it’s not his shoulder again. The injury that he has is something you can get over a lot quicker and we’re looking forward to bringing him back into the fold when he’s fit again."

The second Test gets underway at Centurion on Saturday and Lungi Ngidi and Duanne Olivier have been added to the squad as Steyn's potential replacements. 

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