CAPE TOWN – Dale Steyn’s comeback to Test cricket was ruined on Saturday when the Proteas fast bowler hobbled off Newlands with a “freakish” heel injury.
The first Test against India was Steyn’s first international since injuring his shoulder in Australia back in November 2016.
The 34-year-old sustained significant damage to his left heel and could be out of the rest of the series against India, with an estimated recovery time of between four to six weeks. He is unlikely to bowl again in the current match, and may bat if needed.
Cricket South Africa will seek the advice of a foot specialist to see if Steyn’s recovery can be sped up, but will likely adopt a cautious approach to monitoring his comeback.
“As we all know during his 18th over in his delivery stride, he unfortunately landed in the footholes,” said Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa’s team manager who is also a medical doctor.
“Understandably he was disappointed, but he will try his best to recover as quickly as possible. You could see how much he was enjoying himself out there.”
There were plenty of concerns surrounding Steyn’s fitness leading into the series opener. The veteran seamer had not completed a Test series in three years after returning home from India in 2014 with a groin injury.
An initial comeback was stalled when Steyn hurt his shoulder in the Boxing Day Test against England, before he aggravated it at the Waca.
The last shoulder injury was initially meant to be a six-month break from the game, but Steyn opted for extra recuperation time after the Perth setback.
He only returned to competitive cricket during the recent RamSlam T20 Challenge for the Titans, and bowled two spells for the South African Invitation XI with a pink ball at Boland Park last month.
It was meant to be preparation for the maiden pink-ball Test against Zimbabwe at St George’s Park last week, but Steyn was once again ruled out with a viral infection.
His lack of first-class game time was certainly an issue leading into this series-opener with India, but Steyn bowled with good pace and swing for 18.3 overs over the course of the past two days.
He even claimed two wickets to inch to within three Shaun Pollock’s all-time national record of 421.
However, Moosajee stressed that Steyn’s latest injury was not related to any previous ailments.
“It is important to note that this type of injury is freakish because of the way his foot landed in the footholes. It was in no way related to his bowling loads or being match-ready,” Moosajee explained.
With South Africa currently leading by 142 runs with eight wickets still remaining, it is unlikely that Steyn will be required to bat – although Moosajee said that call could only be made once he sees the specialist.
“It is quite tender and it’s extremely uncomfortable to run. Obviously with some anti-inflammatories and rest overnight, who knows how he might turn up tomorrow. We would, though, like him to be non-weight-bearing.”