On this Wednesday morning it would be fair to say Steyn is indeed back after he bowled South Africa to their first Test series win in more than 12 months with the 26th ‘five-for’ of his career. The most gratifying aspect was not just the amount of wickets Steyn claimed - eight in the match after his three-wicket burst in the first innings - but rather the manner in which he went about his work.
By his own admission “I struggled to get the ball to get up there” in the first innings, but from ball one the second time around Steyn was right on the money.
The ball was coming out “sweetly” and it was like “magic” as “I could land it where I wanted to. I had the ball on a string.”
Although he claims that he feels that he still “needs to up the pace” and is still “five kilometres off it”, Steyn has never relied on express pace to be successful.
The beauty of Steyn has always been his ability to hit the length that causes a great deal of uncertainty in the batsmen’s foot movement. On a surface that also offered him the sort of assistance that SuperSport Park did yesterday, he is near unplayable.
Tom Latham, the luckless Kiwi opener, certainly discovered that yesterday. The left-hander’s feet were caught firmly stuck in the crease, not knowing to press forward or hang back, while the no-shot offered gave the impression Latham was as confused as a chameleon in a box of Smarties.
That one delivery was enough to send shivers all the way up the countless stains that lead to the New Zealand dressing room at SuperSport Park. And to create further chills, he bent one away from Martin Guptill a few balls later that took the edge and flew to Hashim Amla at first slip.
And that’s what South Africa, and specifically captains Amla and AB de Villiers, have sorely lacked over the past year. For all the skill and combativeness of youth that Kagiso Rabada possesses and has delivered in the interim, the Proteas Test side have always relied on the talismanic Steyn to create virtual chaos in the opposition's line-up.
And nobody does that better. In a bygone era when the Proteas roamed the world as the champion Test side, Graeme Smith always knew in the crunch moments he could chuck the ball to Steyn and something would happen. And habitually it did.
Steyn not only delivered the prized scalp or create the crucial breakthrough, but he also had a way of infusing his teammates with energy. Stand-in Faf du Plessis has often admitted that he draws inspiration from Steyn’s manic celebrations when those crazy eyes light up and the veins bulge through his skin.
It is this emotion that South Africa have lacked in the field almost as much as the wickets that Steyn claims for the team. He is the fire that burns within the Proteas Test side, and the timing of his return cannot be better with arch-rivals Australia next on the agenda.
We don’t know how long Steyn still wants to terrorise batsmen with the red ball in the international arena. At 33 years old it may not be for long. But as long he is willing and able, just sit back and marvel at one of the true legends of South African cricket. – Independent MediaDale Steyn played a starring role in South Africa’s series victory over NZ. His performance in Centurion is just what the Proteas have been missing the last 12 months.
Original source: How the Proteas have missed Steyn