Galle - “There is nobody better in world cricket right now. I have great respect for our bowling attack, but when this guy gets a sniff, all the skills come to the fore - the discipline, the pace through the air – and it’s hard to play; it really is.”
Allan Donald knows a thing or two about fast bowling, but the artist formerly known as ‘White Lightning’ continues to be astonished by the array of skills that his prime weapon keeps displaying, in all conditions.
Dale Steyn doesn’t so much gallop in, as much as glides serenely, eyes fixated on his ever nearing target. It’s cheetah-like; silent yet savage, and there was a magical, manic period - just after tea - when the Proteas talisman turned the Sri Lankan middle-order into gazelles, mesmerised by a wicked, swinging missile.
“I’ve not seen the look that is on his face before. Since he got here, he’s been so determined to leave a legacy here. He’s been unbelievably hyped up for this whole series,” Allan Donald, the Proteas bowling coach purred, after Friday's spell of five overs, three maidens, three victims, all for the princely sum of eight runs.
Steyn, reflecting on another day that will be added to a burgeoning career highlights reel, admitted that he actually enjoys the challenge of trying to thrive in an environment where fast bowlers come to die.
“Bowling on the sub-continent is so hard. Sometimes, bowling on a green top is just as hard because you’re expected to take wickets, but these places are really difficult to bowl on,” he smiled.
“But I kind of enjoy that challenge. I remember coming here a long time ago, and I was useless! I was just running in trying to bowl as fast as I could – just had no idea what I was doing,” he mocked.
Steyn explained that there was some fortune to go with his incredible skills. As it turns out, big is not always best.
“I’m lucky because I am short, and skiddy. So my bouncer doesn’t get up. A guy like Morne is taller, so he roughs up guys. I am always in with a chance to hit the stumps with every ball. It didn’t happen today, but I was still attacking the stumps, I managed to hit the edge a few times,” he said with understatement.
Donald expects Steyn to feature prominently at the business end of this Test.
“The pace is relentless, and he mixes it well; he just keeps coming. It has to do with his attitude, which I have seen since we got here, through the ODI series, and that is that he is not letting up. His leadership as a whole is a great quality,” Donald added.
“We’ve said the graveyard shift is going to be the hardest here, and Dale did it again today. There is nobody better in the world at cleaning up a batting line-up. And it's not just when he is on a roll, but also when he has to dig deep.
“He looks deep, deep down there,” Donald growled, tugging at his Proteas emblem.
It’s in the heart, he explained, and so long as Steyn remains the heart of the Proteas attack, no cause is a lost one.