It would not be a stretch to say that South Africa’s Dale Steyn inspired an entire generation of young fast bowlers around the world. Such was his impact. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest speedsters of the 21st century.
Steyn’s fluent run-up, angry eyes at his delivery stride before knocking over the off-stump at frightening speed became a sight that entered cricketing folklore. The Phalaborwa Express made the ball talk wherever he played in the world... on any kind of surface.
He could end up with a nine-wicket match haul on a slow surface in Galle, pick-up a five-for on a flat one in Karachi or run though the famous Indian batting order in Nagpur. On spicy wickets back home, he was nearly unplayable. But Steyn will look fondly at his time Down Under, where he was part of a victorious Proteas side on three different occasions.
Winning in Australia had perennially been an Achilles Heel for visiting teams across two decades. Graeme Smith’s side, ahead of the 2008 series, was growing in confidence and had a good mix of young talents and established stars.
While South Africa’s victory in the first Test in Perth was built on their batting smarts, chasing down an improbable 414, Steyn stamped his class in the second, bagging a 10-wicket haul in Melbourne. Smith and his men made history and came back four years later to get the better of Michael Clarke’s side. In 2016, Steyn hobbled off with an injury in the first Test in Perth but not without having a telling say in the game.
Australia were cruising at 158 for no loss after bowling out South Africa for a modest 242. Steyn outsmarted David Warner to give the struggling tourists some breathing space. Faf du Plessis’s side dramatically wrestled momentum back and won the match. They’d go on to win the series too. Steyn didn’t bowl another delivery in the three-match rubber but played apart in masterminding a spectacular collapse.
As we saw with the Indian bowlers during the 2018-’19 tour, attacking the batsmen with pace at a fuller length has reaped rewards in Australia. Steyn showed the way in 2008 and subsequently went on to become the premier pacer in the world, a tag he enjoyed until retiring from red-ball cricket last year.
Watch all the wickets Dale Steyn took in Australia here: