The ‘Steyn-gun’ has retired. One of the pillars of modern-day fast bowling, Dale Steyn leaves the sport as an all-time great. In an era where the batters dominated, Steyn stood out with his 699 international wickets. Finishing as South Africa’s highest Test wicket-taker, Steyn leaves with 439 wickets in 93 games with a ridiculous average of 22.95 and remarkable strike rate of 42.30. Menacing with the new ball and a master of reverse-swing with the old, Steyn was the bowler no one wanted to see at the top of their run-up.
As we celebrate this colossal of the game, we look at ten of his finest performances in the game’s greatest format.
10/108 vs India, Nagpur, February 2010
It has always been difficult for pacers to be threatening in the Subcontinent. Generally, the pitches here are more suited for batting. Pacers rarely get assistance, and although wickets have been curated to make the competition livelier now, it wasn’t the same a decade earlier.
To win in India has always been a challenge for any touring side. When South Africa came to India for their tour in 2010, even though they were one of the top Test sides in the world, it would have been asking too much of the Proteas to humble India at their home.
The first Test got underway at Nagpur and after electing to bat first, two giants of South African cricket, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, piled the pressure on the hosts as South Africa managed to get 558/6 in their first innings before declaring. The Proteas knew that if they had to win, they would need 20 wickets in India, which wasn’t the easiest of tasks given that the opponent batting line-up had the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni. Dale Steyn, though, had different plans.
Steyn hoodwinked Murali Vijay with the old outswing-outswing-inswing trick before getting the big fish Sachin Tendulkar caught in his crease trying to play an unplayable delivery. Tendulkar knew Steyn was going to take it away from him; Steyn, though, double-bluffed the Master and made the ball do just enough to take it away from Tendulkar, inducing the edge which the Indian great could do nothing about. Even though there was some resistance from Sehwag and S. Badrinath, Steyn ran through the Indian line up, beating the lower order for sheer pace, to end up with a 7/51 in the first innings and forcing the hosts to follow on. First innings’ centurion Sehwag fell to Steyn’s pace and he further managed to get two more wickets in the second innings to wrap up a memorable innings victory for the Proteas.
In his 17-year career, Dale Steyn’s best bowling figure didn’t come in the swinging English conditions or the bouncy Australian or South African conditions, but in the dead Subcontinental pitches of India. That probably says everything one needs to know about the greatness of the man.
11/60 vs Pakistan, Johannesburg, February 2013
After getting hosts South Africa bundled out for 253 in the first innings, Pakistan would have been the happier of the two sides given how the series had started. That feeling, though, did not last very long. To be precise, it lasted for 3.4 overs. Steyn got Mohammad Hafeez with a screamer and then wrecked the remaining line-up inside the next seven overs as he ended up with figures of 6/8, bundling out the visitors for 49.
After the Proteas set a target of 480 to win for the visitors, Steyn was at it again.
Steyn got the well-set Nasir Jamshed first before breaking the partnership of Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq with an unplayable delivery that Shafiq edged to slip. Steyn then went on a clean-up job as he cleaned up the tail, including Pakistani captain Misbah with another jaffa, that saw the visitors lose by 211 runs. That, though, was mainly due to Dale Steyn at his unstoppable best, producing unplayable deliveries one after the other.
10/154 and 76 vs Australia, Melbourne, December 2008
South Africa went Down Under with hopes of a strong performance against the hosts, but they knew that beating Australia in Australia would need a herculean effort. After going 1-0 in the series, the Proteas arrived in Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test.
The young South African pacer got things underway by beating Simon Katich for pace to clean him up. Steyn then induced an error in judgement from Michael Hussey due to his immaculate line and length and had no trouble cleaning up the tail with his pace and accuracy. Although the hosts did manage to get 394 largely due to Ricky Ponting’s 101, Steyn ended up with a figure of 5/87.
The Proteas were in a spot of bother after Nathan Hauritz had spun them into 251/8 when Steyn joined Jean-Paul Duminy at the crease. Even though he wasn’t known for his batting prowess, Steyn could hold his own with the bat. South Africa needed him to support Duminy now more than ever.
After an initial scare, Steyn settled in and provided the support Duminy needed, but he did not leave it all up to the southpaw. Steyn kept the scoreboard ticking and managed to score a career-best 76, putting on a 180-run partnership in the process that saw the Proteas gain a valuable first-innings lead. Steyn’s 76 was a mixture of calculated risks and reward for patience. He knew when to attack and held back when he was being tempted by the Australians.
Steyn, though, wasn’t done with a five-for and fifty plus score. He was hungry and there wasn’t much Graeme Smith could do to keep the ball out of his hands.
Steyn was the chief wrecker once again in the second innings. He took out both openers, Matthew Hayden and Katich, and then beat Michael Clarke for pace with a snorter and had Andrew Symonds poking at an away-going delivery. Steyn completed his 10-wicket haul by taking the final wicket and helping South Africa go 2-0 up in the series.
Steyn’s 10th wicket was also the pacer’s 150th wicket in what was only his 29th Test match. The world was witnessing a legend in the making.
8/114 vs India, Ahmedabad, April 2008
A batting line-up consisting of Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni can put any opposition team in a spot of bother even before they take the field. Add to that the fact that you have to go up against these stalwarts at their home is just pure stuff of nightmares.
After electing to bat first, the hosts would have expected a big score. Steyn, though, laid waste to those plans. He beat Sehwag for pace and managed to break the defences of Dravid with a peach that squared him up before knocking his off stump off. Steyn was ably supported by Makhaya Ntini and had no difficulties in wrapping up the long Indian tail with a barrage of yorkers that were too good for the tailenders.
Steyn’s five-for helped South Africa demolish the hosts for a paltry 76. The Proteas then rode on Kallis’ 132 and AB de Villiers’ 217 to post a mammoth 494. Steyn once again was too quick for the Indian line-up, bouncing the well-set Ganguly for 87 before cleaning up numbers 9 and 10. Steyn’s 8/114 helped South Africa secure a memorable innings victory away from home.
6/118 vs India, Cape Town, January 2011
It was the clash of the titans. Sachin Tendulkar vs Dale Steyn.
The third Test of India’s tour of South Africa was one for the ages. Not only did we witness the Master Blaster at his best, we also saw one of the finest fast bowlers in modern era at the top of his game, showcasing the mastery of his skills.
The hosts rode on Kallis’ 161 to put up 362 in their first innings, but India were also looking to get away with a big first innings score after a solid 93 from Gambhir and a sublime 146 from Tendulkar. Even though Steyn didn’t get Tendulkar out, the two were involved in an epic duel which saw Tendulkar and Gambhir not exchange strike for almost an hour, with Tendulkar recognising the quality at which Steyn was bowling and wanting to shield Gambhir from him.
Steyn made sure that the visitors didn’t take a massive lead as he produced a stellar bowling display to get Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara and Dhoni out along with a dangerous-looking Harbhajan Singh for 40 before bouncing out Ishant Sharma to claim a five-for and limit India’s lead to just two runs.
Steyn ended that 2011 series as the highest wicket-taker, taking an incredible 21 wickets in three matches and he was at his peak during that third Test.
5/110 vs Australia, Port Elizabeth, February 2014
Riding on de Villiers’ 116 and Duminy’s 123, South Africa had put up 423 in the first innings in the third Test during Australia’s tour of South Africa in 2014.
Australia managed to put 246 on board and when South Africa declared their second innings at 270/5, the visitors needed 448 to win. David Warner and Chris Rogers got the Aussies to the best start possible with a 100-run opening partnership, and just when it looked like the visitors might get away with a draw, the Steyn-gun hit Australia.
Steyn got Australian captain Clarke out first and followed it up with his sheer pace, accuracy and that reverse-swing mastery that saw Steve Smith caught stuck on the crease. Brad Haddin and Ryan Harris didn’t trouble Steyn too much as he made short work of their efforts and helped South Africa clinch a thrilling victory on the final day.
6/87 vs West Indies, Centurion, December 2014
South Africa were well and truly on top after their first innings score of 552 and they turned on the screws once they knocked over the West Indies for 201. What stood out amongst the ten Windies wickets that fell in the first innings was that Steyn took none of them.
However, once Hashim Amla enforced the follow-on, Steyn made up for his wicket-less first innings show. In that second innings at Centurion, he was absolutely nasty. He bounced them, he yorked them and he beat them for pace on length. This was Steyn at his ruthless best, demolishing the opposition batting line-up with little to no respect. He did it all to wrap up the Windies for an embarrassing 131, which saw the hosts take an innings victory.
7/155 vs England, London, July 2012
South Africa came to England in 2012 with the hosts as the no. 1 Test side in the world. The Proteas had a mountain to climb to avoid a whitewash away from home.
The hosts had the perfect start to the Test, with Alastair Cook getting an opening day hundred to set up 385 for England. Steyn had a relatively quiet outing with only two wickets, but one of those was the all-important wicket of Cook, whom he beat for pace like he had done to so many others before.
Hashim Amla, along with Graeme Smith and Kallis, put a serious dent in England’s hopes of winning the Test as he remained 311 not out, while Smith and Kallis got 131 and 182 respectively to put up a mammoth 637/2 in their first innings.
After taking a 253-run lead, South Africa were out for blood and the hunt was being led by none other than Dale Steyn, who made perfect use of the seaming English conditions to get Jonathan Trott caught behind before doing the same to the well-set Ian Bell. Ravi Bopara was no match for Steyn’s pace and neither were Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann, and Steyn wrapped up the England innings at 240 with a personal five-for to help Proteas go 1-0 up following a massive innings victory.
9/99 vs Sri Lanka, Galle, July 2014
Steyn once again showcased his class as he set the benchmark for fast bowling in Asia. Coming to the Subcontinent, you wouldn’t have put your money on a fast bowler taking nine wickets in a game, but if we said that bowler was Dale Steyn, you would have reconsidered for sure.
Backed by Dean Elgar and Jean-Paul Duminy’s hundreds, South Africa posted a massive 455 in the first innings after electing to bat first. It seemed as if the Galle pitch was a batting paradise.
Those thoughts about a batting paradise didn’t last too long, though, as Steyn did what he would do best and ran through the opposition line-up. He bounced out opener Kaushal Silva before yorking out the great Mahela Jayawardene for 3. His pace was a bit too much for Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal who faced the same bouncer barrage from Steyn before holding out to midwicket. Steyn completed his five-for with a peach to get rid of Dilruwan Perera, but the fact that Steyn had found life in what seemed to be a flat track just a day ago highlighted his greatness.
The Steyn-gun was too quick for the Sri Lankan batters once again in the second innings as three of his four wickets in the second innings were caught behind. He helped South Africa take an early lead in the series with a stunning nine-wicket haul, which was made even sweeter given the fact that he achieved it on a Subcontinent pitch.
8/99 vs New Zealand, Centurion, August 2016
After the first Test was called off due to poor ground conditions, both teams were looking to finish the series on a high with a positive result.
Faf du Plessis’ hundred, along with Quinton de Kock and Jean-Paul Duminy’s 80s, meant South Africa posted a healthy 480 in the first innings. Steyn was relatively quiet in the first innings as he picked up three wickets to make sure New Zealand could manage no more than 214. An onslaught by de Kock saw the Proteas get some quick runs on the board before setting a target of 400 for the visitors.
Enter Dale Steyn, who struck on the very first delivery of the second innings, knocking over Tom Latham’s stumps, before finishing the first over of the second innings with a double blow – an absolute peach that left Martin Guptill with no option but to prod at a delivery pitching on off stump and doing just enough to take the edge.
After making sure the Kiwis were reeling at 3/2 by the end of the first over, Steyn piled on the misery as he caught Ross Taylor plumb on the crease with his pace. He got his fourth wicket when he broke Mitchell Satner’s middle stump and quite fittingly wrapped up the innings with another five-for, helping his team take a 204-run victory.