CENTURION: Shaun Pollock on Wednesday described Dale Steyn as ‘the best fast bowler that South Africa has produced’ after the latter beat his record for the most Test wickets for the country.
Steyn broke the record he shared with Pollock when Pakistan’s Fakhar Zaman became his 422nd victim on the first day of the first Test at SuperSport Park at Wednesday.
Fakhar’s dismissal brought to an end more than three years of frustration during which the fast bowler missed no fewer than 27 Test matches because of injury.
Steyn, 35, was mobbed by his team-mates and hoisted on the shoulders of new-ball partner Kagiso Rabada after Fakhar (12) edged the ball to Dean Elgar at third slip, reducing Pakistan to 17-2.
“His performances both home and away have been remarkable,” said Pollock in a statement issued by Cricket South Africa. “His injuries of late have been in stark contrast to how well he has managed his body and fitness throughout his career.” Pollock said Steyn’s record stamped him as South Africa’s all-time best fast bowler.
“I have enjoyed so many attributes of Dale’s bowling, the ability to swing the ball at high speed upfront, reverse-swing the ball with devastating effect and bowl with great control, as well as being able to crank it up with high-speed, hostile bowling on very flat surfaces at times,” said Pollock.
Ironically, before a groin strain ruled him out of action midway through a Test in India, Steyn had been remarkably durable for a fast bowler, playing in 48 consecutive Tests from December 2009 to November 2015, during which he took 232 wickets at an average of 21.72 and dominated the ICC Test rankings for bowlers. He spent a record 263 weeks in the top spot.
Steyn took his 400th Test wicket in his 80th Test in July 2015 — the second-fastest in the world to reach the milestone — and it seemed Pollock’s record was about to fall.
But four serious injuries delayed what had seemed imminently inevitable. The groin injury in India was followed by a shoulder injury during the first Test against England in December 2015 and, after a brief comeback, a more serious shoulder injury against Australia in November 2016 which caused him to miss 15 Tests.
Just when it seemed he had made a full recovery, he suffered a freak heel injury in the first Test against India in January this year, which caused him to miss the remaining Tests against India and a series against Australia.
After a slow recovery, Steyn spent time with English county Hampshire and returned to Test cricket in an unproductive series in Sri Lanka during which he took only two wickets in two Tests to be stuck level with Pollock.
Steyn is now 11th on his own on the all-time world list, needing to match New Zealand legend Sir Richard Hadlee on 431 to claim a place in the top ten.
Steyn has had success in all Test-playing countries in taking five wickets in an innings on 26 occasions, with five 10-wicket match hauls.
Published in Dawn, December 27th, 2018