Steyn shows why he’s the bestComment on this story
In terms of cricket venues around the world, the narrative of any Test match played on the dustbowl pitch at Galle tends to follow the line that spin is king and pace bowlers will struggle to impose themselves.
However, in the first Test against Sri Lanka, South African wrecking ball Dale Steyn tore up the script.
At a venue that supplied retired Sri Lankan spin great Muttiah Muralitharan with 111 of his 800 Test wickets, Steyn weighed in with a nine-wicket match haul to inspire South Africa's thumping 153-run victory on Sunday.
With the odds stacked firmly against him, it is little wonder that Steyn rated the performance among his very best.
“I've played in some pretty tough conditions before but this is right up there,” he said after collecting the man-of-the-match award.
What made the feat extra special was that Steyn virtually negated conditions and made the surface almost irrelevant to conjure up the best match haul by a visiting paceman at the venue.
“It's not the fastest wicket in the world, that's for sure, but if you can get pace through the air with a bit of aggression and land the ball in the right areas then you always stand a chance of taking a wicket,” the 31-year-old said.
“If you leave it then you can be bowled with a bit of reverse swing, or even with the wind.
“Landing the ball in that area means that lbw, bowled or caught behind are always a factor,” said the right-arm paceman, who has 371 wickets from 73 Tests at a strike rate of a little more than 41.
While it sounds pretty straight-forward in theory, putting it all into practice requires the skill and commitment few of his contemporaries possess.
Able to get so much out of a pitch offering so little assistance, Steyn's 23rd five-wicket haul proved why he is feared by almost every batsmen around the globe.
The intensity and aggression never wavered in the 23 overs he bowled in the first innings to claim five for 54 to break the back of the Sri Lankan order with a performance which proved decisive in the contest.
Used prudently in short bursts, he bounced out Kaushal Silva, trapped Mahela Jayawardene lbw with a fuller delivery, enticed Lahiru Thirimanne into edging behind, unleashed another short one to remove Dinesh Chandimal before dismissing Dilruwan Perera to complete the haul.
Pacemen tend to be more effective when working in tandem and Steyn was aided by Morne Morkel's aggressive bowling from the other end, with the duo claiming 16 of the 20 Sri Lankan wickets to fall in Galle.
Spurred on by his partner in crime, Morkel removed the dangerous Jayawardene in the second innings before polishing off the tail to complete an impressive victory for Hashim Amla in his first match as South Africa captain.
Steyn's transformation into the most lethal quick of his generation coincided with pace great Allan Donald's appointment as South Africa's fast bowling coach in 2011.
Humble in his acknowledgment of the influence of Donald, also known for unbridled aggression during his playing days, Steyn said terrorising batsmen gave him far more pleasure than chalking up impressive statistics.
“Numbers, stats... I don't even know how many Test wickets I have to be honest with you,” Steyn added.
“I just enjoy running in, bowling quickly and trying to knock over batsmen.” – Reuters