Warner and Steyn: The best of frenemies
Dynamo slugger must prepare for a flurry of away-swingers
ZAAHIER ADAMS examines the potentially explosive battle between “The Kaboom Kid” David Warner and Dale “Crazy Eyes” Steyn visit in 2012. Despite having yet to have the red ball hurled at him by Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, he let loose.
“I heard someone said that they were talking about getting into my ego or something during the week. If they want to start talking out there and give me a bit of banter, then I’m all for it. I know what to expect and I reckon I’ve got the game plan to counter-act that. ‘Basically (I’ll) just do what I normally do. See the ball and hit the ball,’’ he said. Although Warner,
blitzed 119 off 112 balls in the first innings of the second Test in Adelaide, it was the only occasion in six visits to the crease during that series that the pocket-dynamo managed to get on top of the South African bowling attack.
After numerous brushes with Cricket Australia’s authorities, which included banishment to Zimbabwe on an Australia A tour trip, Warner has finally grown up.
Being a father to little girls tends to have that effect on a man. The suits have recognised this change and have bestowed the responsibilities of vice-captain on his broad shoulders.
As a result, Warner chooses his comments far more circumspectly these days, especially when it relates to Proteas hitman Steyn.
“First time I faced him was in my Twenty20 debut,” said Wa r n e r. “If I look back at that now and go, ‘ would I do what I did then at him?’, I wouldn’t be playing a lap, probably wouldn’t walk at him.
“He’s a world- c l ass bowler, great athlete, always charges i n and you just never want to upset him . He’s a guy that can really get on top, and we’ve seen it before in the Test series (in 2014) when the ball was reversing in PE. He has this spark in him and this spell in him, and you’ve got to get through that. And you’ve got to really work hard to try and negate what he throws at you.” The reverence with which Warner speaks about Steyn is partially attributed to them having shared a dressing-room at the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise in the IPL for the past few years. It has provided a base for a friendship off the field, and a mutual respect on it. But it will not affect Steyn when he gets that shiny Kookaburra in his right hand next week at the Waca. He is arguably the principle member of an exclusive club of South African players who have never lost a Test series in Australia, and he is not going to want to start now on his third – and probably his last – visit Down Under. Those “crazy eyes” will want to light up one last time, along with those bulging veins and he will not care if it’s his good mate Warner who stands in his way.
The Phalaborwa Express will no doubt rev up that diesel engine of his to unleash a flurry of quick away-swingers that teases the outside edge of the Australian’s bat.
Steyn, though, is going to need the support of wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock and slip fielders Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar as well as captain Faf du Plessis in the gully.
In 2008 and 2012, the bucket hands of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis were present in the slip cordon to field those flashing edges.
Kallis was gone by the time the 2014 home series came along, and with Smith present in body but not mind due to home distractions, it allowed Warner to profit from missed chances behind the wicket.
He enjoyed one of the finest three-Test series ever by an Australian opener, scoring 543 runs at an average of 90.50, which included three centuries. It ultimately proved the difference between the two teams as the Baggy Greens defeated the then-World No Test 1 side on home soil.
The Proteas and Steyn cannot afford such lapses again.
T MINUS SIX DAYS: Dale Steyn will rev up his diesel engine one more time Down Under.