Dale Steyn is enjoying being able to bowl long spells at good speeds, and it showed in the 4/48 he took against Sri Lanka in their first innings of the first Test in Durban.
Steyn led South Africa's pace attack on Thursday, 14 February, as they bundled out Sri Lanka for 191, securing a lead of 44 on the second day of the Test. That included a special spell after lunch, where he bowled 10 overs on the trot, maintaining speeds in the mid-140kph range.
Bowling such long spells is not something the 35-year-old has done often in his long career, given South Africa's profusion of pace options. Steyn admitted, in rather colourful language, that he was tired at the end of the day. But feeling in the zone, he badgered his captain to keep him on.
"Today was a period where I felt there was a wicket there all the time. I just felt like it was there for me, so I just kept going," he told reporters after the day's play. "When they were eight down, I didn't want Vern (Vernon Philander) to come on and bowl a loosener and go for four, or Kesh (Keshav Maharaj) to bowl a loosener and go for six.
"I felt, 'I'm not going for any runs, I'm going to carry on bowling here until the captain says he's had enough.' He had had enough after I had my sixth [over], but I kept begging, and got what I wanted."
It's nice to finish a three-Test series against Pakistan and not have someone write: 'He's an injury away from retiring.' It's nice to contribute again. It feels like I've started over.
Steyn might have had his 27th five-wicket haul if Dean Elgar had held on to a catch in his 17th over of the day. But the bowler wasn't complaining. "Test cricket is hard. Nothing should come easy," he said. "Fifers shouldn't come easy, and no catch is easy, either.
"After not playing for two years [through injury], I feel like it's a blessing to just be playing again. I've almost had to start over. I'm not on 430-odd wickets, I'm on 20 since breaking Polly's (Shaun Pollock's) record. It's nice to finish a three-Test series against Pakistan and not have someone write: 'He's an injury away from retiring.' It's nice to contribute again. It feels like I've started over."
Having now gone past Kapil Dev on the all-time wicket-takers' list, Steyn is keen to keep going. He is enjoying what he's doing and doesn't want to let coach Ottis Gibson, who welcomed him "with open arms" after his many injury lay-offs, down.
"If you had asked me two years ago where the full stop would be, I would have been able to give you an answer. But when you take two years out of it, you realise that you don't know what you've got until it's gone," he said.
"When I'm bowling 10-over spells, it shows I'm enjoying what I do. I could take the easy option, take 4/30 and go and stand at fine leg and say someone else do it. But it's fun. It's fun taking wickets. It's fun hitting guys on the head. As long as nothing serious happens.
The legend continues on his upward rise.— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) February 14, 2019
Dale Steyn currently sit's in 7th position on the all time leading test wicket taker list.
He is only 15 wickets from 450 test wickets.
Supreme fast bowling from the 'Phalaborwa Express'#ProteaFire #SAvSL pic.twitter.com/7F3lvmy4jW
"The moment I can't bowl 140-145 kph, and on a good day touch 150kph, like in Australia on fast wickets, then you've got to ask yourself the question: How effective am I? I have some skill – I've got to be honest, I don't have all the skill in the world – [but] I can bowl the ball at the right place consistently for a long period for high speed, and with a little bit of skill, I can shape it away, and I can bring it back in.
"You've got to be smart about when to bowl a bouncer, when to bowl a yorker, and when to bowl a slower ball, and that's what experience is. After 15 years, I've got some of that."
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