The prospect of being Test cricket’s No1 side is not something Dale Steyn wants to think about, not now anyway.
Asked if he sensed that South Africa were on the brink of something big, Steyn casually replied: “I haven’t felt anything in all honesty.”
“It’s weird, we’re in a really nice groove, we are in such a good environment, we haven’t had too much pressure, everyone just seems up for it. The guys know what their jobs are, there is a lot of trust and we are playing good cricket.
“And hopefully if we win, in a month after this, or a year or two we will look back on this period, we might sit back and say ‘maybe I should have different feelings’ or something like that. We’re 1-0 up so far with one game to go I’m not going to change it.”
There certainly is no need for South Africa to change much. There is room to improve on the performance they produced in the second Test at Headingley, but those areas will be addressed in the two tough training sessions they will have at Lord’s this morning and tomorrow.
The bowling was inconsistent, as Graeme Smith mentioned, and there were concerns too about the number of no-balls bowled by Imran Tahir.
Those are technical problems which can be solved. It will be in the minds of the players, though, that the major battles will be fought.
South Africa have a history of failure at the final hurdle, and though they’ve gradually shown signs of ridding themselves of that reputation, it is in matches like the one they face at Lord’s where they must show they are in fact doing so. England have been dealing with all the controversy in the last few days stirred up by Kevin Pietersen’s press conference at Headingley, the fake Twitter account, the text messages to South African players and then the bizarre interview posted on YouTube in which he announced he’d be available for selection for England in all three formats.
Life in the South African camp has been much simpler and it’s allowed Steyn to reflect on the demands of bowling at Lord’s, with its well-known slope and the effect it can have on quick bowlers. In that typical no-nonsense style of his, Steyn explained that bowling at the “home of cricket” was certainly challenging, but one he and the rest of the attack must simply deal with. “We are paid professionals, that’s what we do.
“Every ground has its challenges, everyone talks about Lord’s but at Headingley it was up and down, you run uphill the one way and bowl downhill, then you run downhill and bowl uphill.”
The famous slope at Lord’s goes from left to right when watching from the Pavilion End and Steyn says there are benefits for him bowling from either end at the ground. “The one side with the slope obviously helps with the shape that I bowl, the away shape, so if you come from the far end – where that astronaut thing, spaceship side is (the Nursery End with the media centre) – you get a bit of away shape, but if you run from the top end you kind of run downhill, you tend to bowl a bit quicker from the Pavilion.”
Steyn’s only experience of a Test at Lord’s was a chastening one. In 2008 he and the rest of the South African attack were written up and being compared to the great West Indies fast bowlers of the 1970s and 80s. That hype proved disconcerting, and the Lord’s effect, so inspirational for previous South African teams, weighed heavy on Steyn and Co.
Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell hit big hundreds, as England made 593/8 declared, and with the exception of a gem of a delivery that bowled then England captain Michael Vaughan, Steyn’s Lord’s experience is one he says he’s tried to forget. “I can’t remember everything from back then, but I do remember we fought quite well that last two days with the bat which gave us momentum going into the second Test.”
The South Africans arrive in London this morning, their stay in Derby lengthened by the fact that there was no accommodation available in the English capital on the last night of the Olympics. Having played second fiddle to the Games in the last few weeks, the cricketers will now take centre stage for a keenly anticipated battle to decide who will be No1.
“I’m pretty excited about Lord’s,” Steyn remarked. “Gary (Kirsten) said the other day: ‘You know what guys? We are on the brink of something really special here, in 10 days, you’ll sit down and you could be the No1 Test team in the world, remember it and enjoy it, because this is what we’ve worked for all this time.’” – The Star