8 January 2014
Proteas’ fast bowling spearhead Dale Steyn has been given time off to recover from a small fracture to a rib, which he sustained during South Africa’s recent 10 wicket win over India in the second test in Durban.
Cricket South Africa says Steyn will need from three to four weeks to recover, and he should be available for Australia’s tour of South Africa, which begins on 12 February.
‘A small undisplaced fracture’
Proteas’ team manager Dr Mohammed Moosajee explained in a statement: “Dale dived while fielding a ball on day one of the second test against India in Durban and complained of slight pain of his right anterior chest region. He continued playing and bowling with mild discomfort for the rest of the test. When the discomfort persisted after the test match, a scan was performed which detected a small undisplaced fracture to his right eighth rib.
“He will follow a strict rest and rehabilitation programme for the next three to four weeks and we are confident he will be fit for the tour against Australia.”
Despite the injury, Steyn was named man of the match after returning figures of 6 for 100 and 3 for 47 for a match haul of 9 for 147. He finished the series with 350 test wickets to his name.
He will no doubt be motivated to make an impact on his return after Australian captain Michael Clarke and fast bowler Peter Siddle claimed the Aussies have the best bowling attack in the world following their 5-0 test series whitewash of England.
The Australian attack, led by man of the series Mitchell Johnson, claimed 20 wickets in all five Ashes test matches and restricted the English to an average of only 21.58 per wicket, which was the lowest Ashes average since the 1950/51 series in Australia.
Johnson excelled, capturing 37 wickets at only 13.97 per wicket, while Ryan Harris claimed 22 wickets at 19.31, off-spinner Nathan Lyon 19 at 29.36, and Siddle 16 at 24.12.
The whitewash lifted Australia up to third in the ICC rankings on 111 points, but they still trail South Africa by a sizeable 22 points. Second placed India is on 117 points.
‘A normal build-up’
In an interview with Die Burger, the Proteas’ experienced captain Graeme Smith said: “Australia have a good bowling line-up and played good cricket (against England), but I don’t think our guys will get involved (in a war-of-words). We just want a normal build-up to the test series.
“You also know that when you play against Australia and England, that their media will always exaggerate things. We’re used to it by now.”
Speaking after Australia’s fifth test victory over England, Siddle repeatedly said the Aussies had the best attack in world cricket. However, he acknowledged that South Africa will pose a far tougher threat than England.
‘A very tough contest’
“It’s going to be a very tough contest over there,” he said. “We’re looking forward to it. Conditions are going to be similar to back home, which is going to make it easier for us to adapt, but we’re going to have to lift our game a bit more to get over them.”
Since their demolition job on England, the Australian bowlers have rocketed up the International Cricket Council’s bowling rankings, with Harris in third place, Siddle in sixth, Johnson in eighth and Lyon in 18th.
‘Elite, seldom seen’
Those are certainly impressive positions, but South Africa’s Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn are ranked first and second respectively, with both over the elite, seldom seen level of 900 points. Morne Morkel is in 12th place. However, the spinning option for South Africa is less impressive, with Imran Tahir in 54th place and Robin Peterson ranked 67th.
While there are questions about the spinners, it is the pace trio that drives South Africa’s bowling attack, with their differences being their strength as a unit. The big question, however, will be how the South African selectors replace recently retired all-rounder Jacques Kallis. Will they go for a bowler or a batsman?
Australia’s strength is clearly its bowling, but South Africa is more balanced. They have three batsmen ranked in the ICC’s top 10, with AB de Villiers comfortably ranked number one, Hashim Amla in fourth place and Graeme Smith ranked 10th. Australia has Michael Clarke in seventh place.
They have the balance that Australia lacks, but will surely be tested. Make no mistake, though, Australia’s claims that they have the best bowling attack in the world are going to be severely tested. To a man like Dale Steyn, that’s like holding up a red rag to a bull. The winners are sure to be cricket supporters, but the Australian batsmen? That’s doubtful.