Dale Steyn and the joy of watching a fast bowler

There are many beautiful duels in the game of cricket. A wily spinner against a fleet-footed batsman, a swing bowler in overcast conditions against a batsman with solid defence, but a genuine fast bowler against a good batsman trying to cut loose beats the other two in excitement. It’s the most raw of all contests.

I haven’t been watching the IPL, but this Sunday I happened to watch the second half of RCB vs DC. I was quite glad that I took an exception to my decision to not follow the IPL. I was mainly attracted to the TV after the noise that ensued in the previous over in which Manpreet Gony had been carted around by Chris Gayle. I stayed to watch the next over hoping to see how Gayle would play Steyn. Gayle got the strike in the third ball. The ball was just short of length and Gayle played a half push/ half cut that was hit in the air and a couple of metres away from a fielder. The next was a 145 kph bouncer that sent Gayle ducking for cover. Steyn’s message was clear. He wasn’t going to pitch anything anywhere near the full length.

The fifth ball not quite a bouncer. Gayle tried to back away to the leg side and hit it on the off side ( a shot he played for six to a similar ball in the last over from Gony ). But Dale was a touch too quick and he chopped it on to the stumps. More than the actual balls bowled , it was Dale’s attitude that really got me excited. “You could be the leading run scorer. You could be carting these medium pacers out of the park. But, if you take liberties with me, I am going to knock your head off”. I could sense this as he was running in.

Dale Steyn isn’t an out and out quickie of the Akhtar kind. He swings the ball beautifully and gets most of his wickets in Tests that way. Here he didn’t have  much to work with, but he managed to produce that magic needed to unsettle Gayle. It’s a shame that the contest lasted only thee balls. I would love to see Gayle take guard against Steyn in Cape Town on the first morning of a Test match. Unfortunately that may never happen. But I do have the memory of these three balls.



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