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Cricket: Black Caps beaten by the best

Dale Steyn watches his delivery on the fourth day of their second test against New Zealand. Photo / AP
Dale Steyn watches his delivery on the fourth day of their second test against New Zealand. Photo / AP

It will be of little consolation to New Zealand's batsmen, but they experienced bowling eminence first-hand at Centurion this week.

Their deficiencies were prodded, permeated and ultimately exposed by Dale Willem Steyn, arguably test cricket's best pace bowler.

The 33-year-old's absence in recent months with groin and shoulder injuries coincided with South Africa slipping to seventh in the test rankings. After Steyn's match figures of eight for 99 from 36.2 overs, the Proteas were back at No5.

His 26th test five-wicket bag came in the second innings, advancing him to 11th on the list of top wicket-takers. He moved to 416 dismissals, overtaking Wasim Akram's 414. Steyn sits five behind South African record-holder Shaun Pollock.

A look at the strike rate column of the 13 players to take more than 400 test wickets reveals he is an outlier. Twelve of the bowling luminaries took between 51 (Sir Richard Hadlee) and 69 (Harbhajan Singh) balls to get each wicket; Steyn takes 41.

That's effectively one a spell.

Extrapolate that list to include those with more than 200 test wickets - Waqar Younis took his at 43 balls apiece, Malcolm Marshall and Allan Donald 47, and Fred Trueman 49. No one matches Steyn.

Certainly he has a powerful front-on technique with a right arm that comes down like a guillotine. Sometimes he comes close to taking off heads, but he's at his best pitching up to target stumps, pads and bat edges.

Mix that with a compelling brand of mental disintegration. His eyes have the maniacal hint of a Bond villain; his cries of jubilation and tattoo-sleeved fist pumps rival Braveheart; his tongue can deliver John McEnroe-type invective.

Perhaps his finest attribute is stamina.

"I love testing guys' patience," he said. "I will wait there all day and hopefully find the edge or knock his poles over."

Strike rates for bowlers with more than 400 test wickets

Player - Wickets - Average - Strike rate
Muttiah Muralitharan - 800 - 22.72 - 55
Shane Warne - 708 - 25.41 - 57
Anil Kumble - 619 - 29.65 - 66
Glenn McGrath - 563 - 21.64 - 52
Courtney Walsh - 519 - 24.44 - 58
James Anderson - 463 - 28.28 - 57
N Kapil Dev - 434 - 29.64 - 64
Sir Richard Hadlee - 431 - 22.29 - 51
Shaun Pollock - 421 - 23.11 - 58
Harbhajan Singh - 417 - 32.46 - 69
Dale Steyn - 416 - 22.24 - 41
Wasim Akram - 414 - 23.62 - 55
Curtly Ambrose - 405 - 20.99 - 55

- NZ Herald

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