MANGUANG OVAL (92 News) - Dale Steyn needed 117 matches to score his maiden one-day international half-century, at the age of 35 and playing his first ODI in nearly two years, and nobody was more surprised or delighted than the man himself.
Steyn, one of the premier bowlers of his era, made 60 on Wednesday, 3 October, which helped his side to a 120-run win against Zimbabwe to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series. He had added 75 runs for the eighth wicket with Andile Phehlukwayo to set up South Africa’s total of 198.
"That wasn't me!” joked the pacer after his knock. "I was discussing the lunch, and the next thing I knew, I was in to bat!”
Speaking in the post-match press conference, he added, “It’s nice [to win Player of the Match for his batting]. When I started my career, I joked with the guys and said I could bat a little bit! It’s taken me almost 14 years to score my ODI fifty! Maybe that’s just because we’ve had a strong batting line-up.
“In some ways, I’m disappointed that I couldn’t have done that earlier in my career and I had to wait this long, but it’s nice to score runs and contribute.”
Steyn explained that he and Phehlukwayo aimed to bat in five-over spells on a difficult wicket, and hailed Zimbabwe’s bowlers for making life difficult for the home batsmen with their opening spells.
Steyn, who was playing his first ODI in nearly two years, was thrilled to be finally in the thick of things. He pointed out that playing county cricket in England had helped him not only with his skills, but, vitally, to get “cricket fit” after a long time on the sidelines with injury.
“In the county season you’re always batting, but the thing is I’ve been playing cricket, which is nice,” he said. “In the past, I’ve come into these series after a winter and haven’t played a lot of cricket, and I feel my way into series. My last game was two weeks ago and I feel cricket fit.”
It showed in his bowling: he hit speeds of 145kph and picked up 2/19 in six overs, sending down a fiery opening spell.
“My fingers were freezing! I don’t think I could feel the ball in the first over!” he said of the conditions in Bloemfontein. “There was a nice breeze behind me, so there was a little bit of pace.
“If you’re going to hit the deck hard, something is going to happen all the time, and the Zimbabweans found it tough.”