Steyn accomplishes comeback mission
An era ended and another began at 7.49pm on a crisp evening at the south end of the Diamond Oval in Kimberley on Wednesday night.
There‚ ball in hand‚ at the start of the second over of the Knights’ innings in their T20 match against the Titans‚ stood Dale Steyn‚ ready to do something he hadn’t done since November 4 last year: bowl in a match.
He broke his shoulder and ripped muscles in his arm‚ chest and back that day bowling for South Africa in the first test against Australia at the WACA in Perth.
What would have felt‚ for Steyn‚ like an era was over. What South Africans will hope is a new era of dominance by the finest fast bowler of the age was about to start.
“I watched him bowl in the middle [during the warm-up] and it’s just a thing of beauty‚” one of those South Africans‚ AB de Villiers‚ said in a television interview during the innings break.
“We just hope his body stays fit through this campaign. We are expecting him to enjoy himself tonight; not too much pressure on him.”
The time for talk was finally over when Steyn steamed in to Grant Mokoena …
And bowled a no-ball.
A no-ball? Steyn spends 376 days on the sidelines‚ sweating through surgery and rehab and probably a world of self-doubt‚ and then he oversteps?
Mokoena waited again‚ a free hit in his back pocket.
Steyn swooped — and Mokoena scooped a slower‚ leg-side delivery to fine leg for four.
The next ball‚ which swung wide outside off‚ disappeared through the covers for four.
Steyn stormed back with a similar effort‚ and this time Mokoena put him over the covers. One bounce. Four.
Three more runs came off the last two balls. Seventeen for the over.
Umpire Brad White offered a smile‚ perhaps in apology‚ as Steyn collected his cap.
He returned in the ninth over‚ this time from the north end and with Theunis de Bruyn tapping his bat.
As Steyn leapt into his delivery stride the ball escaped his grasp and trickled to earth.
He turned‚ went back to his mark‚ glided towards the crease once more …
And De Bruyn heaved a straight delivery high towards the long-on fence‚ where De Villiers took a comfortable catch and‚ would you believe it‚ kissed the ball.
Steyn limited the damage to three runs in that over and five in his next‚ the 11th‚ despite starting with a leg-side wide.
But with every additional delivery you could see his muscle memory stirring‚ his rhythm losing rust‚ his gears clicking ever more smoothly.
Clearly‚ at 34 and after everything he’s been through — he has broken the same shoulder before‚ remember — Steyn still has what it takes.
Three overs was all he had‚ taking 1/25 and helping his team win by 38 runs‚ but it was enough to know the mission had been accomplished.