Six appeal – Dale Steyn ends his drought in style
‘Phalaborwa Express’ rides again, leading the destruction as Proteas punish India Kingsmead scoreboard
DALE Steyn couldn’t have enjoyed being knocked off his pedestal as the No 1 Test bowler in the world this week, especially after a marathon run of 186 matches. Even less would he have appreciated going more than 60 overs without taking a wicket.
As if that wasn’t enough, Steyn has been upset by harsh criticism on social media concerning his and Vernon Philander’s inability to sign off a near miraculous win at the Wanderers last week when South Africa fell eight short of a record 458-run victory target.
Before yesterday, then, it had been a miserable week for the man from Phalaborwa. But the best cricketers invariably find a way to sort out their problems, and yesterday Steyn offered hope to his team, and brought this second Test to pulsating life with some hostile fast bowling.
On Boxing Day he’d made an unremarkable start to the match with 0/49 in 16 overs, including an early period when he was well below par.
Yesterday, he was forced to wait throughout the morning after light drizzle delayed play until 12.40pm when the northeasterly wind finally banished the rainclouds and ushered in sunshine and blue sky to dispel what had been a dismal scene.
With so much time lost to rain and bad light, this Test desperately needed to move forward. Steyn duly provided that turbo-boost, grabbing his 22nd five-wicket haul in only his 69th Test. His 6/100 enabled South Africa to peg back India to a manageable 334 all out, to which the home team replied – in glorious late evening light – with a breezy 82 without loss.
It will not have escaped India’s notice, however, that their left-arm spinner, Ravindra Jadeja, managed to get some good turn in his five-over spell, causing difficulties for both Graeme Smith and Alviro Petersen. As this pitch becomes ever drier and dustier, Jadeja may yet play a major role in the outcome of this match.
India, cruising on an overnight total of 181/1, had been firmly in control of this match until Steyn burst into life.
In his first over he induced Murali Vijay to edge him at catchable height through the vacant third slip area.
In his next over Cheteshwar Pujara edged him just wide of Graeme Smith’s desperately flailing left hand as he threw himself at the ball.
Finally, success came in his third over, following some ferocious short-pitched deliveries that had both batsmen ducking and weaving.
With his third ball, Steyn bowled a fuller length, the ball left Pujara late and found the edge, enabling De Villiers to complete a routine catch.
Steyn’s relief was palpable and it gave him added reserves of adrenalin as he steamed in to bowl. His second wicket shortly afterwards put a cruel end to Vijay’s hopes of striking his first Test century outside India as he gloved a lifter to De Villiers.
The next ball pitched outside off stump and reverse swung. Rohit Sharma shouldered arms and the ball neatly plucked out his middle stump. He thus became the fourth batsman after Hashim Amla (twice) and Zaheer Khan to be dismissed without attempting a shot in this series.
India had slipped from 198/1 to 199/ 4 in the space of just 15 deliveries by Steyn, and suddenly South Africa INDIA first innings S Dhawan c Petersen b Morkel ......29 (64m, 49b, 4x4) (edged half-hearted drive at length delivery outside off stump) M Vijay c De Villiers b Steyn ...........97 (309m, 226b, 18x4) (gloved well-directed lifter down leg to keeper) C Pujara c De Villiers b Steyn .........70 (233m, 132b, 9x4) (edged push to length ball that moved away late) V Kohli c De Villiers b Morkel .........46 (115m, 87b, 5x4) (leg-glance brilliantly caught by diving wicketkeeper) R Sharma b Steyn...........................0 (2m, 1b) (shouldered arms to reverse-swinging delivery that knocked out middle stump) A Rahane not out.........................51 (190m, 121b, 8x4) MS Dhoni c Smith b Steyn .............24 (58m, 40b, 3x4) (nibbled at delivery in off-stump corridor) R Jadeja c Kallis b Duminy...............0 (5m, 3b) (edged push to slip after ball turned away) Z Khan c De Villiers b Steyn .............0 (4m, 2b) (big waft, edged to wicketkeeper) I Sharma c De Villiers b Steyn...........4 (4m, 3b, 1x4) (outside edge to backfoot defensive push) M Shami c Smith b Morkel ..............1 (13m, 6b) (edged waft to slip) Extras: (7lb, 4w, 1nb) ..............12 Total (all out, 111.3 overs) ....334 Falls: 1/41 (Dhawan, 13.1), 2/198 (Pujara, 66.3), 3/199 (Vijay, 68.5), 4/199 (Sharma, 68.6), 5/265 (Kohli, 92.3), 6/320 (Dhoni, 106.4), 7/321 (Jadeja, 107.5), 8/322 (Khan, 108.2), 9/330 (Sharma, 108.5), 10/334 (Shami, 111.3) Bowling: Steyn 30-9-100-6 (2w), Philander 21-6-56-0 (1nb, 1w), Morkel 23.3-6-50-3 (1w), Kallis 111-36-0, Peterson 22-2-75-0 SOUTH AFRICA first Innings G Smith not out ...........................35 (88m, 59b, 5x4) A Petersen not out .......................46 (88m, 61b, 7x4) Extras: (1lb)..............................1 Total (for no loss, 20 overs).....82 Bowling: Khan 4-0-20-0, Shami 50-23-0, Sharma 6-2-18-0, Jadeja 51-20-0 were back in business.
There was then a deceptive calm before the second storm, when Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane added 66 runs without fuss before Kohli glanced Morkel and was brilliantly caught down the leg side by De Villiers, who eventually took five in the innings. Kohli, contemplating his first failure to reach at least a half-century in the series, remained at the crease for a long time, perhaps unable to believe what had happened to him.
Rahane, who struck a limpet-like unbeaten 51 in 121 balls, then featured in another half-century partnership with captain, MS Dhoni, before South Africa polished off the tail as India lost their last five wickets for 14 runs.
Although Steyn’s effort offered plenty for Proteas’ fans to cheer, it was the wicket captured by part-time spinner JP Duminy that brought the most joy as it offered Jacques Kallis the opportunity to grasp his 200th catch in Tests, second only to Rahul Dravid.
After the big man, playing in his last Test, had grabbed a sharp chance diving to his left, he was engulfed by his delighted teammates. Today will offer him another opportu- nity, this time with the bat, to end his career with a flourish.
“Somehow Durban, even with all these flat wickets they keep preparing, always gives us a result,” Steyn smiled last night, after a stirring day.
“We’ve been on the receiving end of it a few times, and as soon as you take your foot off the pedal, you get found wanting,” he warned.
India, serene on day one, slipped up on day two, as Steyn swept up six of the visitors in a welcome return to the centre of proceedings, after a barren spell that had spanned more than 75 overs.
“I was speaking to Allan (Donald), and he said it was one of my better five-wicket hauls, simply because of how long I had gone without a wicket.
“I didn’t mind it, actually. I don’t think I have bowled that badly, to be honest,” he added, explaining that his wicketdrought was part of the game.
“I always say that you need that one soft dismissal, to get on a roll. Sometimes you bowl good balls, and don’t get wickets. But once you get one soft wicket, you get on a roll and things start happening.
“I didn’t get that in Joburg, but I got one today, and then got a few wickets,” he smiled.
Steyn burst into life yesterday, when play finally got under way.
The morning start had been delayed to beyond lunch, as morning gloom turned into drizzle, which became steady rain. There looked to be not much chance of play, but the weather gods soon changed their tune, and those die-hards who stuck around were rewarded with more action than the first day.
And all the while the pitch was covered, it was literally steaming, turning into a strip that had more encouragement for the slicker sorts. Steyn rightly feasted, gobbling up six scalps as India tumbled from the heights of 198 for one, to 334 all out.
“It wasn’t easy for a new batsman to come in there, because Steyn was reversing it,” Vijay who top-scored with 97, conceded.
“It was disappointing, and we should have taken more responsibility as the top-order batsmen. But I thought MS (Dhoni ) and Ajinkya (Rahane) fought back well there in the middle.”
Vijay explained that while India were slightly disap- pointed in letting South Africa cruise to 82 without loss in the elongated final session, they were eager to have a go at reversing the ball themselves.
Things tend to happen quickly at Kingsmead, and today’s third day may well be pivotal. In the midst of the power struggle between the top two teams in Test cricket, South Africa are still trying to script a fairytale ending.
“Whether it means scoring runs quickly, or taking ten wickets again, we will do everything we can to win this match for Jacques Kallis,” Steyn insisted.
ANOTHER ONE GONE: Dale Steyn, right, reacts after yesterday dismissing India batsman Murali Vijay, second from right, for 97 runs during the second day of theTest match at Kingsmead.
GOING SHORT: Vernon Philander is in SA Cricket’s preliminary squad for the T20 World Cup.