Dale Steyn has become South Africa’s leading wicket-taker in Test cricket, after claiming his 422nd wicket in Centurion. It took just 19 balls on the day for Steyn to reach the landmark, achieved when Fakhar Zaman prodded at one outside off, edging to Dean Elgar in the slips. The 35-year-old fast bowler overtook Shaun Pollock, whose record of 421 wickets had stood for over 10 years.
The crowd rose as one to give him a prolonged standing ovation, while his team-mates hoisted him on his shoulders. Pollock, the man he overtook to become South Africa’s most prolific wicket-taker, called him “an absolutely brilliant performer, an absolute champion and a true leader of the attack”.
“The fact that he is the best Test fast bowler that South Africa has produced doesn’t require my endorsement, as his stats and record tell you that,” Pollock said. “He’s fully deserving of holding the record for most Test wickets and I hope that he goes on to take many more and continues winning games for the Proteas.
“I have enjoyed so many attributes of Dale’s bowling through his international career. The ability to swing the ball at high speed upfront, reverse swing the ball with devastating effect, bowl with great control and within himself as well as being able to crank it up with high-speed hostile bowling on very flat surfaces have all been his hallmarks.”
Speaking at the lunch break in Centurion, Steyn paid tribute to Pollock for helping him along early in his career. “Every time I’m around him it’s a learning process. Those nine Tests [we played together], and especially in white-ball cricket, just watching Polly [Pollock] bowl…” Steyn told host broadcaster SuperSport. “He was pretty much my boot sponsor for the first three or four years of my career [laughs], he was fantastic. Along with Biff [former South Africa captain Graeme Smith] and all these guys, they helped me grow up not just as a cricketer but as a human, they shaped me into who I am today. Maki [Makhaya Ntini, whom Pollock incidentally passed for the record]… I’ve got my own family but in the cricketing world you have your cricketing family.”
Steyn made his comeback from a heel injury earlier this year, having battled shoulder and groin problems since 2015. He has only played seven Tests in the last two years and four months, but in an interview with ESPNcricinfo in June spoke of his intention to try to reach 100 caps. And, on Monday, he said he felt like a 23-year-old and was hoping to go on playing for a long time yet, warning he hadn’t saved himself up to take just the one more wicket.
Graeme Smith, under whom Steyn made his debut in 2004, called it a “goosebump moment”, adding he was “lost for words”. In the years since, Steyn established a reputation as one of the fastest and most lethal fast bowlers in the game’s history, his record bolstered by a virtually injury-free run until three years ago. He reached 400 wickets against Bangladesh in 2015, but has since played only a handful of matches, leading to the extended wait to become South Africa’s leading wicket-taker.