Dale Steyn’s narrative has become about breakdowns‚ injuries and lengthy spells of rehab‚ so when that isn’t the story he doesn’t hit the headlines as hard as he should.
But there’s no arguing with the numbers‚ and here they are: on his return from a groin strain this week Steyn took 3/25 and 3/41 for Hampshire against Worcestershire and‚ into the bargain‚ cracked five fours in his 25 overs in the first innings.
That’s about as good as it gets for a 35-year-old fast bowler who has spent much of the past three years overcoming an assortment of calamities that‚ had they not happened so publicly‚ would have made people wonder if he had made an unhealthy hobby out of antagonising nightclub bouncers.
A groin problem in Mohali in November 2015 was followed by a couple of broken shoulders — at Kingsmead in December 2015 and at the WACA in November 2016 — and a heel injury at Newlands in January this year.
So it came as welcome news that the groin he tweaked playing for Hampshire last month would keep him out for only two weeks at most.
What’s two weeks out of nearly three years of pain and suffering and wondering if he will ever again mark out a run-up?
That Steyn has managed to play eight Tests and take 19 wickets in the throes of all that tells us plenty about the level of mental strength he has managed to maintain despite his physical travails.
That he has‚ in the process‚ matched Shaun Pollock’s record total of 421 Test wickets is a delicious detail of one of the most captivating careers in cricket.
That he should claim the record for himself at home in the coming summer is a moment for all cricketminded South Africans to savour.
For now Steyn is doing what he has done since abandoning‚ some 15 years ago‚ mad ideas about becoming a professional skateboarder.
Hampshire‚ under whose crest he has taken 13 wickets in four matches this English summer‚ will have his services for another three matches before the season ends on September 27.
“I just love playing‚” Steyn said in a video interview posted on the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s website on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t matter whether I’m playing county cricket or club cricket in Cape Town‚ or I’m playing at the highest level for South Africa.”