Dale Steyn showed his class and moved up the list of highest wicket-takers in Tests with a splendid performance during the Kingsmead Test against Sri Lanka in Durban on Thursday. The right-arm pacer took 4/48 in 20 overs as South Africa took a crucial 44-run lead which they extended to 170 at the close of play on day 2. Steyn’s haul helped him become the joint-seventh highest wicket-taker in Tests with 437 wickets from 92 Tests, level with England pacer Stuart Broad’s tally who has played 126 Tests. James Anderson is the leading pace bowler in Test cricket with 575 wickets while Glenn McGrath of Australia is second on the list followed by West Indies pacer Courtney Walsh with 519 wickets.
Steyn, who has been plagued by injury for the last couple of years, equaled Kapil Dev’s record of 434 wickets when Lahiru Thirimanne (0) edged a back of a length wide ball to Quinton de Kock. The Proteas pacer had another slice of good fortune and he went past Kapil’s record when Oshada Fernando (19) was adjudged LBW and the batsman did not take the review. Steyn took his third wicket when Suranga Lakmal (4) chipped a full ball to short cover while Kusal Perera’s attacking 51 ended when he sliced a full ball from Steyn to the substitute fielder Zubayr Hamza to deep cover.
The 35-year-old, who recently overtook Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 wickets in the series against Pakistan to become the most successful pacer for South Africa, has had to work hard for the record in the last couple of years. Constant injury issues threatened to derail his career and the questions grew louder with each injury. When Steyn went past 400 wickets in just 80 Tests during the series against Bangladesh in 2014, it seemed that it would only be a matter of time before he would break Pollock’s record.
Following the end of the Bangladesh series, the nightmare began for Steyn. A groin injury that he sustained in the India series in 2015 curtailed his participation and he was ruled out for a couple of months. He returned for the series against England and put in a magnificent performance in the Boxing Day Test in Durban when he picked up 4/70 but in the second innings, he suffered a shoulder injury which prolonged his time on the sidelines.
Steyn spent a considerable amount of time outside the game and returned for the series against New Zealand where he displayed his mettle and took 5/33 in Centurion to give South Africa a series win. Steyn travelled to Australia in 2016 where he got the wicket of David Warner for 97 in Perth. However, he once again suffered an injury and this one was more serious. A fractured shoulder led to surgery and he was sidelined for 14 months. It seemed that the record would be out of Steyn’s reach. When he returned for the India series in 2018 in Cape Town, he got two wickets but in the second innings, an injured heel resulted in him missing the series and also the four Tests against Australia.
With so many injuries cropping up, Steyn played very few games and he once again made a comeback in the series against Sri Lanka. However, on pitches which assisted spin, Steyn took only two wickets in the entire series and South Africa were whitewashed 2-0.