PAARL – Vincent Barnes was the Proteas bowling coach for almost a decade. In that time, the cream of South Africa’s fast-bowling talent came under his counsel.
However, nobody could make the hairs stand up on the Sacos legend’s arms the way Dale Steyn does when he makes his way to the crease.
Steyn’s beautifully rhythmic action before he unleashes a curling away-swinger gets Barnes visibly excited.
On Wednesday evening, the mentor and protégé were reunited at Boland Park, where Steyn was continuing his road back to the Proteas Test side with the SA Invitational XI after a year out of international cricket due to a shoulder injury.
Like he has previously done on so many occasions for the Proteas, Steyn took the new pink ball and should have had Zimbabwean opener Solomon Mire caught behind with the fourth ball of his innings, only for the umpire to adjudge not out.
He also missed out on another wicket when Zubayr Hamza dropped Hamilton Masakadza at point a couple of overs later.
Steyn’s luck did not change after the dinner break either, when wicket-keeper Ricardo Vasconcelos failed to gather an inside edge off left-hander Ryan Burl.
He was not too perturbed, though, and was just content to be out there in the scorching Boland sun bowling – although not with a red ball – in white clothing again.
Steyn bowled nine overs in the two sessions he was on the field, recording figures of 9-4-9-0.
“I feel good, I don’t feel like I am in any pain anyway. That is quite strange because I played an entire career with niggles all over the place, so it is quite nice to bowl now without anything,” Steyn told reporters at the dinner break. “It is just about getting overs under the belt, and the recovery over the weekend, and then pick it up again when I get to Port Elizabeth. A good day today, and a couple of overs tomorrow I think should be enough.”
With 85 matches and 417 Test wickets – just four shy of Shaun Pollock’s all-time national record – under the belt, there is no doubting Steyn’s pedigree.
But after not playing any international cricket since last November when he was helped off the Waca by former Proteas physio Brandon Jackson, the fear is that Steyn may not have many nitros left in his 34-year-old engine.
He certainly wasn’t revving it up on Wednesday night, preferring to focus on regaining his rhythm.
“I want to play cricket as long as I can. Age isn’t really a factor. I think we all have that one friend in life that runs the Comrades up until he is 60! I would like to think I am one of those guys.
“I don’t really worry about fitness. I am still fitter than the youngest guys in the side. Age is not an issue. It was just about getting through this year and trying to decide whether I still wanted to do it,” Steyn said philosophically.
“All you need to do is bowl one ball at 145, 150 kilometres an hour and people see that you can do that, and it’s in the back of their mind all the time.
“I don’t have to run in and bowl 150 kilometres (per hour) consistently all day long. I’ve just got to be able to do it every now and then. The batsmen will know that it’s there, and I’m able to take their feet away, hit them in the head, whatever.
“The rest of the time I’ve always relied on skill: relentless line and length, trying to knock guys over, and just being smart. When it’s really flat, then you can crank it up.”
Steyn is unlikely to bowl in Zimbabwe’s second innings of this warm-up match as he is set to leave on Friday to join up with the Proteas Test squad in Port Elizabeth for the one-off Test starting on Boxing Day.