There is really no scale to measure Dale Steyn's fury on a cricket pitch. The Indians were at the receiving end last year. The Australians felt the Steyn heat in Port Elizabeth on Sunday. Steyn took three wickets for four runs in 15 balls to break Australian resistance wide open and set the Proteas on their way to a massive victory by 231 runs with a day to spare in the second Test match at St George's Park. The high-profile series is now tied 1-1. The third and deciding Test match will be played in Cape Town from Saturday.
"Dale sort of goes from very angry to extremely angry," skipper Graeme Smith said, suggesting there is no real yardstick for Steyn when his adrenaline is pumping. "But he is always one spell away from being able to create something for us. There are high expectations on him. If he is not getting five-fors or knocking people over, or knocking their heads off, then people start to ask questions."
The key period on Monday was the 10-over spell when Steyn, with good support from Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel, led the attack as five wickets fell for just 14 runs. A key factor throughout the match was the ability of the South African seamers to get reverse swing reasonably early in both innings and there is no finer exponent of this skill than Steyn, whose career has often suffered from injuries.
"He carried an injury for a while before this series, but I thought he was a spell away from his best," Smith said. "Hopefully that spell sparked him for the next Test. He is going to get better and better the more he bowls and the more he plays."
The South Africans had taken an extra half-hour in their bid to win the match ahead of the predicted storms on Monday's fifth day and there were only two balls left when part-time spinner, Dean Elgar -- the seamers could not bowl in rapidly fading light -- dismissed last man Nathan Lyon leg before wicket to claim the second wicket of his Test career. The two spinners did, in fact, strike decisive blows as JP Duminy's wicket -- also lbw -- to dismiss the threatening David Warner (66 off 73 balls, 9 fours and a six) broke the opening stand of 126 in only 29 overs.
Duminy was all praise for Steyn and picked out the pacer's spell that galvanized the team. "It's great to be on his side. It's great to be a part of," Duminy said. "That's why many people feel Test cricket is the best format around. He is just exceptional. There is no doubt that spell fired everybody up and the collective effort of Vernon, Morne and Dale really got us going."
In spite of the ups and downs as a team, Smith said the Test series has been full of drama and a great advertisement for the longer format of the game. "That's sport, isn't it? That's why people watch it and are fans for a very long time because it gets the true reality of life," he said. "Test cricket showed it's drama. The week building up was a tough week for us. I don't think many teams would have been able to respond from where we were."
It's over to Newlands now. Test cricket can't get better than this.
Story first published on: Monday, 24 February 2014 13:53 IST