Steyn has ‘killer instinct’

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By Zaahier Adams

Proteas captain Graeme Smith hailed his ace fast bowler Dale Steyn after he helped South Africa to a comprehensive innings and 193-run victory over New Zealand at St George’s Park yesterday. It also helped secure the world No1 Test side’s first home whitewash since 2008.

Steyn charged in with the second new ball to wrap up the Kiwi tail with three quick strikes before the lunch interval.

It took his tally to eight in the match after his 5/17 first innings haul, and propelled him to 13 wickets in the series – the most by any bowler on either side.

“If a batter gives Dale a sniff, he has that killer instinct and is able to step up and make it count,” Smith said after Steyn was named man of the match. “It’s great for us to have that in our environment and he sets the tone for all of us to follow.

“When he bowls like he did in that first spell on the second evening of this Test – hitting his 145-147km mark and swinging the ball – it’s really great to be in the slips and be a part of that moment.”

After singling out Steyn, Smith further enthused about the quality of the entire Proteas fast bowling unit: “When things are going well and bowlers are bowling quickly it’s great, but the difference now is that our attack is relentless and the bowlers can back each other up. Having guys that keep coming at you all day – creating pressure and bowling with pace and intensity – is crucial to our success.”

Sustained success is significantly important to this Proteas outfit. They talk about creating a dynasty, a legacy that will live on long after they have called time on their careers.

It is not short-term pleasures they desire but a long-standing period that will rival the celebrated Australian teams of the mid-1990s to the late 2000s.

They have certainly laid the foundation with successive away series wins over England and Australia. Smith’s Test outfit have also now won five series on the trot, starting with a 2-1 win over Sri Lanka at the beginning of last year. In that cycle, they have only lost one match (to Sri Lanka in Durban) and won eight.

South Africa do not have a hectic travel schedule this year, with only one away series to Pakistan in the UAE. However, they do host Pakistan in a three-match series that gets under way next month. The first Test is at the Wanderers, followed by a trip to Cape Town on Valentine’s Day before returning to the Highveld for the final Test at Centurion.

Mohammed Hafeez’s team is ranked No4 on the ICC Test table and will pose a few more testing questions to the Proteas. Their bowling unit is particularly dangerous, especially now that the tourists have included Mohammad Irfan, who stands 2.16m in his socks.

“Pakistan offers a new challenge. It will potentially be a tough series,” Smith said. They have always been an unpredictable team but they have found lots of consistency of late.

“Obviously he (Irfan) is an unknown factor, but they will have an exciting bowling unit all round and some really experienced batsmen.”

Smith, though, will have to wait a fortnight before he can turn his attention to the Pakistanis as South Africa still have to face New Zealand in three one-day internationals, which start in Paarl this Saturday.

He will have some sort of a breather, though, as he hands over the leadership reins to AB de Villiers for the pyjama kit series.

South Africa completed a comprehensive 2-0 series whitewash over New Zealand yesterday at St George’s Park. Here is our verdict on how the squad rated during the series…

Graeme Smith: 7/10

With South Africa batting only twice in the series, there were limited opportunities for the batsmen. Smith struck a half-century at Newlands and failed at St George’s Park, which affected his average for the series. His leadership was spot on again throughout.

Runs: 55, Ave: 27.50, HS: 52

 

Alviro Petersen: 7/10

The much-maligned other half of South Africa’s opening pair continues to shut his critics up. A workmanlike century, the fifth of his career, at Newlands in the opening Test set the series up for him. He failed to build on that in Pot Elizabeth, missing out on a rare opportunity to delight his home fans. A couple of dropped catches in Cape Town also affected his rating.

Runs: 127, Ave: 63.50, HS: 106

 

Hashim Amla: 9/10

If 2012 was a great year for him, everything he has done so far suggests 2013 may be even better. Amla plays the game at his own pace, choosing either to accelerate, as he did in Cape Town, or play the more traditional anchor role, as he did in PE.

Runs: 176, Ave: 88, HS 110

 

Jacques Kallis: 6/10

A rather quiet series for the world’s greatest cricketer, but such was the strength of the opposition that he was not really required to be at his best. He toyed with the bowlers in Cape Town during his 60 before unleashing two glorious pulls shots in PE – his only contribution with the bat. There was also an uncharacteristic dropped catch in the first innings.

Runs: 68, Ave: 34, HS: 60

 

AB de Villiers: 7.5/10

South Africa’s most attractive batsman , De Villiers continued his good form since the Perth century with two half-centuries in this series. He would have been disappointed that he did not convert at least one of them into a triple figure score. His work behind the stumps remains sound and showed good improvement during the two matches.

Runs: 118, Ave: 59, HS: 67; Catches: 9, Stumpings: 0

 

Faf du Plessis: 8.5/10

The Proteas’ find of the summer continues to bloom. He put a rare failure at Newlands behind him to improve on his Adelaide effort by posting his highest Test score in PE. Du Plessis looks comfortable at the crease, switching between attack and defence with ease.

Runs: 152, Ave: 76, HS: 137

 

Dean Elgar 8/10

The most relieved man in the Proteas dressing room. With a pair of ducks on debut at the Waca followed by a nervous 21 in Cape Town, Elgar proved – most importantly to himself – that he can be successful at this level with a maiden Test ton. It showed he is simply not just keeping JP Duminy’s spot warm until he recovers from his Achilles injury.

Runs: 124, Ave: 124, HS: 103*

 

Robin Peterson: 8/10

Being the spinner in the South African Test side is always going to be a tough act, especially with the form the pacemen are in. But Peterson performed his role to perfection. He kept it tight, which allowed his captain to rotate the faster men, and struck when he was required to do so. Just ask Kiwi skipper Brendon McCullum.

Wickets: 5, Ave: 21.80, BB: 2/21

 

Dale Steyn: 10/10

It was not quite his 20-wicket series of 2006/07, but then again he did not have Vernon Philander as his new-ball partner back then. He still finished as the leading wicket-taker in the series, and really revved it up in PE to leave some marks on the Kiwi batsmen they won’t forget in a hurry.

Wickets: 13, Ave: 11.53, BB: 5/17

 

Morné Morkel: 7/10

He may not grab the headlines any more now that Steyn and Philander are the torchbearers of the attack, but Morkel still has a hugely important role to perform. He ensures there is no let up in intensity and picks up important wickets when needed.

Wickets: 7, Ave: 18, BB: 3/14

 

Vernon Philander: 9/10

He was superb at his home ground in the first Test, wreaking all sorts of damage on the first morning of the series when he claimed a mind-boggling 5/7 to leave New Zealand in tatters. He loses a point, though, for not being fit to take his place at St George’s Park due to that dodgy hamstring.

Wickets: 7, Ave: 11.85, BB: 5/7

 

Rory Kleinveldt: 6/10

Another one to put a horror debut behind him, Kleinveldt has taken some assured steps since. He knows he is only performing a holding job while Philander recovers from injury, but good performances like the one he produced in PE, cannot be discounted either.

Wickets: 4, Ave: 24.24, BB: 2/44 – The Star

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