Dale Steyn Head and Shoulders Above International Fast Bowlers Still Playing

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Dale Steyn Head and Shoulders Above International Fast Bowlers Still Playing
Eranga Jayawardena/Associated Press

Dale Steyn eats bowling records for brunch. No matter where he goes or who he bowls against, Steyn seemingly can’t be stopped. On Friday in Galle, he made history once again. He became the first South African fast bowler to take a five-for at Galle.

On a wicket not really suitable for fast bowlers, Steyn steamed in over and over again. One of his spells finished with figures of 5-3-8-3. It was his fifth five-for in Asia and his 23rd overall, putting him on par with Kapil Dev, Dennis Lillee and Imran Khan.

Most Five Wicket Hauls in an Innings
Player Mat Inns Wkts BBI Ave Econ SR 5 10
M Muralitharan 133 230 800 9/51 22.72 2.47 55 67 22
S Warne 145 273 708 8/71 25.41 2.65 57.4 37 10
Sir RJ Hadlee 86 150 431 9/52 22.29 2.63 50.8 36 9
A Kumble 132 236 619 10/74 29.65 2.69 65.9 35 8
GD McGrath 124 243 563 24-Aug 21.64 2.49 51.9 29 3
IT Botham 102 168 383 8/34 28.4 2.99 56.9 27 4
Wasim Akram 104 181 414 7/119 23.62 2.59 54.6 25 5
Harbhajan Singh 101 186 413 8/84 32.37 2.83 68.5 25 5
SF Barnes 27 50 189 9/103 16.43 2.36 41.6 24 7
DW Steyn 73* 137 367 7/51 22.84 3.26 41.9 23 5
DK Lillee 70 132 355 7/83 23.92 2.75 52 23 7
Imran Khan 88 142 362 8/58 22.81 2.54 53.7 23 6
N Kapil Dev 131 227 434 9/83 29.64 2.78 63.9 23 2

ESPN StatsGuru

Those figures are pretty good for a player playing in an era where batsmen are dominating. And, along with Glenn McGrath, Steyn is the only fast bowler who has played in the 2000s to reach this milestone. But these figures should not come as a surprise. He has been one of the most consistent bowlers in Test cricket in the last five years, and there can be no doubt that he is the best fast bowler currently still playing. 

Out of all the fast bowlers still playing who hail from outside the subcontinent (defined as Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and the UAE), Steyn has the most wickets there—76 in 28 innings. And, overall, only Courtney Walsh has more wickets than him with 77 in 31 innings. 

Steyn got his first breakthrough against Sri Lanka in his seventh over, returning for just his second spell. Kaushal Silva was the first to be caught in the web. Through a hostile spell of short balls and bouncers, Silva hooked a bouncer to long leg where Vernon Philander took a spectacular catch. Steyn was now breathing fire with figures of 7-2-8-1.

Taken out of the attack in the 19th over and brought back in the 36th, Steyn struck again almost immediately. This time it was Mahela Jayawardene caught right in front of his stumps. That spell didn't bring any more rewards for the quick, and it was only later in the day in the searing heat and with the old ball that Steyn ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankan middle order. His aggression and forcing the batsmen to play helped push South Africa into a strong position. 

At the close-of-play press conference, he said he finds he enjoys the challenge of playing in the subcontinent, somewhere he says is "the hardest place to bowl." But he has had success in Sri Lanka before. Back in 2006, he took five wickets in Colombo in a tense Test South Africa lost by one wicket. He admits that back then he was "probably just running in and trying to bowl as fast as he could." Steyn reckons that he thinks about the game and getting his opponents out much more these days, even if he is still bowling super fast.

Although he might be heading into his twilight years, Steyn's star is showing no signs of letting up just yet. It looks like he might be a supernova first, outshining the entire galaxy with as much energy as the sun is expected to emit over its entire life span before he even begins to fade.

There's still a lot of time left in the Test, and South Africa's new era under Hashim Amla is off to a steady start. It's been a team effort underscored by Steyn's individual brilliance, and they might be asking themselves just what all the fuss was about flat tracks.

Quotes obtained firsthand.


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