Jimmy breaks jinx, Dale still stacks up better

Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)
Dale Steyn (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - It took him 30 innings to end the hoodoo, but England’s James Anderson, his Test career so often measured against South African rival Dale Steyn, can finally sport a five-wicket haul in Australia.

The tall seamer’s second-innings haul of 5/43 in the enthralling, ongoing second Ashes Test at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday played no small part in a determined fourth-day fightback by the tourists, already 1-0 down, who enter day five still in with an outside chance of levelling the series.

Ticking that particular statistical box by Anderson, in his fourth and quite probably last tour Down Under, will have come as a significant relief to the 35-year-old, after some 11 years of trying in that ever-prestigious cricketing country.

He continues to be an amazingly consistent, usually supremely fit member of the England side.

But even getting that Australian “five-for” monkey off his back at last probably doesn’t do a great deal to convince neutrals that his numbers generally rack up better in Test cricket than do long-time Proteas stalwart Steyn’s.

Just in Australia specifically, for instance, Steyn still holds fairly obvious sway for excellence over Burnley-born “Jimmy”.

It took the Phalaborwa Express, encouragingly headed for a long-awaited return to the Test fray against Zimbabwe in Port Elizabeth later this month, only three innings - by stark contrast - to hit the five-wicket jackpot Down Under.

That came in the historic second Test of the 2008/09 tour under Graeme Smith’s charge when Steyn’s spectacular 10-wicket haul in the match - five and five - was also accompanied by a career-best 76 with the bat and famous ninth-wicket stand of 180 with JP Duminy.

Steyn was a shoe-in for player of the match and SA clinched their first ever series triumph in Australia with one Test still to play.

Anderson’s record now in Australia is 51 wickets at an average of 36.21 (15 Tests), whilst Steyn, from eight fewer games, has 31 at 28.77.

In all Tests against the Aussies (home and away), Anderson has 95 scalps at 34.89, and Steyn 70 at an again well superior average of 27.47.

For what really should amount to confirmation that Steyn is a better traveller in the five-day format, a comparison of the two speedsters’ records on back-breaking Subcontinent surfaces is also educative.

In all Tests in Asia, Steyn has 90 wickets at 22.66, whilst Anderson’s tally is currently 59 at 30.00 – both having played 20 Test matches in those unfavourable conditions.

From all Test matches at home, Steyn boasts 241 wickets at 20.94 (46 games); Anderson 335 at 24.29 (76 games).

Away? Steyn stands at 162 scalps at 23.43 (35 Tests), and Anderson 157 at 34.80 - despite the Englishman’s advantage of 14 extra appearances.

Meanwhile in overall terms (with Anderson finished with bowling in the present Adelaide Test) he sports an overall Test tally of 514 wickets from 131 games at 27.34, and economy rate of 2.92.

Steyn, hopefully set for an injury-free run against Zimbabwe and then immediate follow-up major home series against India and Australia respectively, has 417 from 85 Tests at 22.30, although he leaks slightly more runs as his economy is 3.22.

The South African may do well from here, and aged 34, to join Anderson in reaching 500 Test wickets, something that would have been so much likelier had he not sat out so much activity over the last couple of years.

Although England also play considerably more Test matches than the Proteas do, you have to credit Anderson enormously for his longevity and ability to stay off the treatment table more often than not.

Only two seamers have more Test wickets than he does: Glenn McGrath (563) and Courtney Walsh (now a precarious five superior to Anderson with 519).

Yet this question is still very much worth posing: just how many poles might Dale Steyn boast if he’d played the same tally of Test matches as James Anderson?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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