Dale Steyn’s bid to become the most prolific bowler in South Africa’s history is in his own hands.
Proteas coach Ottis Gibson has all but confirmed the ‘Phalaborwa Express’ would be in the first Test team to take on Sri Lanka in Galle on Thursday, but added the rider: ‘He knows what he needs to do to get himself up for a Test match. We’ve had a little chat about what he needs to do for the remainder of the days building up to the Test match.
‘He came into the practice match and he looked a little bit rusty, I’m not going to lie. But we’re talking about one of the best fast bowlers of the modern generation. He’ll be good to go by the time the Galle Test comes around.’
Steyn needs just three wickets to overtake Shaun Pollock’s haul of 421 and, after a lengthy lay-off with injury over the past two years, is determined to get back into action. He played for Hampshire in the County Championship and the One-Day Cup (in which he received a winners’ medal) in an effort to get match-fit.
If selected, it will be Steyn’s first Test since his brief appearance against India at Newlands in January, when he hobbled off with a heel injury. That was his comeback match after a long spell in rehab working on a shoulder injury sustained against Australia in November 2016.
Steyn has an excellent record in Sri Lanka, taking 21 wickets in four matches, but his fitness will be a focus, for Gibson expects that the seam bowlers will have to work for their wickets. He has intimated that South Africa will go into the Test with three seamers.
‘It’s not going to be a place like Joburg where they see the ball flying through to the ‘keeper and the slips. Sometimes it might bounce twice before it gets to the ‘keeper. But then that’s when your strong character comes in, and you have to suck it up, run in, keep trying to hit the deck and be effective and get wickets.’
In that respect, the experience of Steyn will be vital.
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