Dale Steyn helped Hampshire win the One-Day Cup on Saturday, proving his fitness just before the Proteas tour of Sri Lanka. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

DURBAN - Dale Steyn spent the last day of June in the happiest place in the game of cricket. He was in a cup-final winning change-room, at the home of cricket, surrounded by champagne and beer. He had played his part in Hampshire’s romp over Kent, and signed off a most productive month on the English coast in the best way possible.

In the same match, Rillee Rossouw’s 125 had blown Kent out of the water, as the star-studded seasiders made it a day to remember in the heat of London. Steyn, 35 and seemingly thriving, will still be adamant that was not the last final that he plays at Lord’s before he lays his out-swingers to eternal rest.

When Steyn first announced that he was going for a stint of county cricket, the news was greeted with optimism in South Africa. After all, his last few comebacks from injury had been derailed by fresh blows to an aging body.

And yet, over the past five weeks in England, he has given himself and his teammates plenty of reason to be cheerful, as he enters the final stretch of a terrific career in the game. In his last first-class outing, Steyn helped himself to five for 66. Those kinds of figures from the Phalaborwa Express are no surprise, given his skill and his experience.

What would have heartened him, his captain and the selectors no end was the 29 overs of work that he got through in that contest against Yorkshire. It has been uncommonly warm in England, and that sapping heat would have made the toil even greater. But Steyn showed that there is still gas in the tank, and his peach of a delivery to dismiss Indian star Cheteshwar Pujara also confirmed that he still has all his tricks safely in his back pocket.

Proteas coach Ottis Gibson is in no doubt that a fully-fit Steyn stillholds considerable value in the upper echelons of the game. Steyn was a regular visitor to the Proteas change-room, even whilst crocked, because Gibson wants him to know that he still has a role to play in the near future. His nous, and ability to reverse swing the ball at pace, will be of great benefit on the Sri Lankan tour that the Proteas have just arrived for. 

It was Steyn that 2014 skipper Hashim Amla looked to for inspiration in Galle, during a famous Test win for the visitors. At that stage, Shaun Pollock’s Test record of 421 scalps was set far on Steyn’s horizon, as he continued to gobble up victims around the world. But since he toured India in 2015, injury has been a curse that he has struggled to shed.

When he broke down in the recent, blockbuster summer involving India and then Australia, some feared that his days as a Proteas player were over. But steady rehabilitation and then Hampshire have put a spring in his step, one which he hopes will launch him into an injury-free, final year of international cricket.

With 419 Test wickets, he is one typical spell away from rewriting the history books that have been patiently waiting for his edit. That spell could yet come under the considerable Fort in Galle, which has seen Steyn breach the home defences, and toast victory over a cup of tea with Amla. Given the form that Steyn appears to be in, the chai-wallas of Galle better be on standby.

The Mercury

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