It’s been a long, wind­ing road back for ‘bionic’ Dale

Cape Argus - - SPORT - STU­ART HESS

MORE than a year since break­ing down in a Test match in Perth, Dale Steyn re­turns to com­pet­i­tive cricket in a do­mes­tic T20 match in Kim­ber­ley tonight, wear­ing the light-blue colours of the Ti­tans.

The RamSlam T20 Chal­lenge has al­ready been lit up by some sparkling per­for­mances on the com­pe­ti­tion’s first week­end; Sarel Erwee’s cen­tury and the prodi­gious hit­ting of Khaya Zondo, AB de Villiers and Al­bie Morkel, and Steyn’s re­turn is sure to cap­ture the at­ten­tion of cricket en­thu­si­asts even more.

Steyn’s shoul­der has some­thing of the “bionic man” about it what with a pin that’s been in­serted to keep the joint to­gether. At the same time the mus­cles around that area of the body have been strength­ened too, over the course of his ex­ten­sive re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pe­riod.

The 34-year-old ace, has been build­ing up his bowl­ing mileage in in­cre­ments in the last cou­ple of months and has ad­mit­ted that he’s needed to trust him­self to bowl fast again. That will be one of the most in­trigu­ing as­pects of tonight’s match.

Does he feel com­fort­able enough to let the ball go at the speeds to which he was ac­cus­tomed in his pomp?

Ti­tans’ coach Mark Boucher has said Steyn won’t be pushed too hard ini­tially and that he’ll be re­liant on the bowler to ex­plain how he feels af­ter each out­ing.

Per­haps the greater chal­lenge for Boucher is how to fit Steyn into his tal­ent-laden start­ing team.

Even with­out him last Sun­day the Ti­tans were too pow­er­ful for the Highveld Lions in their tour­na­ment opener at Su­perS­port Park. How­ever, with the ex­cep­tion of Morkel, who claimed 3/12, their bowl­ing was per­haps not as ef­fi­cient as they would have liked.

Steyn would most likely come into the start­ing team in place of David Wiese – not a like-for-like re­place­ment – but one that will bring to the fore an in­ter­est­ing as­pect of the Ti­tans’ game-plan re­gard­ing the all­round abil­ity of Malusi Si­boto.

The 30-year-old – one of the he­roes of the Ti­tans’ tri­umph in the com­pe­ti­tion last sea­son – has been pushed by Boucher to im­prove his bat­ting this sum­mer, to turn him into an all-rounder. In terms of bal­anc­ing the side, the Ti­tans need that sec­ond all-rounder, and the of­ten un­sung Si­boto has shown im­prove­ment in that area of his game, pro­duc­ing some use­ful in­nings in the Sun­foil Se­ries in­clud­ing the sec­ond half-cen­tury of his ca­reer.

Given how pow­er­ful the Ti­tans’ bat­ting looked on Sun­day, Si­boto, likely to fill the No 7 spot, may not even be needed. Farhaan Be­har­dien, Ai­den Markram and Wiese weren’t re­quired against the Lions, as the Ti­tans, thanks to Morkel, De Villiers and Quin­ton de Kock, over­whelmed one of the stronger at­tacks in the com­pe­ti­tion.

The Knights have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence they can call upon with the ball though, with Marchant de Lange their spear­head while Ryan McLaren and Shadley van Schalk­wyk won’t be in­tim­i­dated by the su­per­stars in the op­pos­ing ranks. In Ed­die Leie, they have game chang­ing leg-spin­ner.

The Knights also have some stars of their own in their bat­ting line-up and it was thanks to skip­per The­u­nis de Bruyn, who will be des­per­ate to prove a point in this com­pe­ti­tion given the pres­ence of all the Proteas, and David Miller that they won their open­ing game in PE against the War­riors.

There are once again many in­trigu­ing mini-bat­tles to look for­ward to this evening, but for the most part, eyes will be on the Ti­tans’ No 6, Steyn, and on just how quickly he will bowl.

To­day’s match starts at 6pm.

PASS­ING IT ON: Dale Steyn spends time with a young bowler dur­ing a re­cent bowl­ing clinic in the city.

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