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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

The Steyn spell Tendulkar says he will “never forget”

Of all the spectacular moments Steyn created over his 93-match Test career, one stood head and shoulders above the rest; mainly because Tendulkar, cricket’s most decorated batsman, called the day of the spectacle-in-chief’s occurrence a day “he will never forget”.

cricket Updated: Aug 11, 2019 08:14 IST
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
File image of Dale Steyn in action against Sachin Tendulkar.
File image of Dale Steyn in action against Sachin Tendulkar.(Getty Image)
         

When he stood at the top of his mark, no other modern-day fast bowler made the batsmen question their life choices—choices that led them to that particular batting crease—more than Dale Steyn did. At his peak, Steyn was not just the best bowler in the world, but also the most threatening. Mike Tyson often says that he won many of his bouts as he walked towards the ring. Ditto for Steyn, who took a great chunk of his 439 Test wickets as he glided into bowl with his eyes wide and nostrils flared.

Also Read: ‘Don’t really know how to sum up’: Steyn reflects on his Test career

Again, like legendary boxers, the end was ushered in not in a battle against his opponent but rather against his body. Suffering from irrepressible injuries in the evening of his career, Steyn called it a day from the long format, rendering the Port Elizabeth Test against Sri Lanka in February his last. It was a match in which he finished wicketless across innings for only the second time in his career; an end most unsuitable for a bowler with 26 five wicket-hauls.

But Steyn was more than just an extraordinary wicket-collector. At his very best, he was a one-man spectacle.

Of all the spectacular moments Steyn created over his 93-match Test career, one stood head and shoulders above the rest; mainly because Sachin Tendulkar, cricket’s most decorated batsman, called the day of the spectacle-in-chief’s occurrence a day “he will never forget”, as per his quote to ESPNCricinfo. A day in which he faced “one of his finest spells of fast bowling.”

Tendulkar doesn’t often do hyperbole. And neither is he made to look ungainly repeatedly during the course of a Test innings, which incidentally happened to be the innings in which he scored his 51st and final Test hundred. But as remarkable as that Cape Town Test of 2011 was—it witnessed two Jacques Kallis hundreds as well, the second a match-saving innings scored with a broken rib—it will always be remembered for two spells totalling 11 overs bowled by Steyn.

Also Read: Malcolm Marshall of our generation’: Dravid hails former South Africa Test pacer

The first of those spells kicked off the third day of the deciding Test of a series locked at 1-1. For a shade under an hour on a wickedly seaming pitch, Steyn had a playing-and-missing Tendulkar tied up at one end, bowling his entire spell of five overs at only him. Three of those overs were scintillating maidens, with outrageous outswingers missing Tendulkar’s edge by inches.

Now, thanks to the zinging ball, even a batsman of Tendulkar’s stature was admittedly caught in a web of footwork indecisions. Moving too much to get in line could get him in trouble. As would not moving at all. Only because he was Sachin Tendulkar, he found the brevity required and survived the spell. But barely. From Tendulkar’s three scoring shots over the length of Steyn’s morning session, two were edged through the slip cordon.

Steyn began proceedings in the post-lunch session too. But Tendulkar wouldn’t have to face him until the second ball of his third over. By then, Steyn had a wicket-maiden in his first over (Cheteshwar Pujara) and a wicket-maiden in his second (MS Dhoni). Tendulkar was well past his hundred by then, playing some extraordinary strokes against the bowlers operating from the other end. But once he was facing a raging Steyn once again, he was careful like a skilled matador.

Also Read: ‘Welcome home red beast’: Dhoni gets a new car, Sakshi shares photo

Their oil-painting of a contest lasted 14 more balls, of which Tendulkar would score just one run. And when the second spell ended just as the first one had begun—with a maiden—Steyn and Tendulkar exchanged nodding heads, perhaps in acknowledgement of how they fleetingly elevated modern-day cricket beyond the usual measures of runs and wickets.

First Published: Aug 10, 2019 16:47 IST