Steyn is fi­nally set for re­turn

But where will Boucher fit Pha­l­aborwa Ex­press into his pow­er­ful Titans team?

The Star Early Edition - - 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 T20 Chal­lenge has al­ready been lit up by some sparkling per­for­mances af­ter 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 thing to­gether, while at the same time the mus­cles around that area of his 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 to in his pomp? Titans coach Mark Boucher has said Steyn won’t be pushed too hard ini­tially, and that he will be re­liant on the bowler to ex­plain how he feels af­ter each out­ing.

Per­haps the greater chal­lenge for Boucher is how to fit Steyn, pic­tured, 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, whose nick­name is the Pha­l­aborwa Ex­press, 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 all-round 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, in or­der to turn him into an all-rounder. In terms of bal­anc­ing the team, 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 a 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 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 a 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 and David Miller that they won their open­ing game St Ge­orge’s Park against the War­riors.

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

Tonight’s match starts at 6pm.

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