Home > Features >

South Africa tour of Sri Lanka 2014: Dale Steyn conquers Fort Galle

Dale Steyn snared nine wickets in the match © Getty Images
Dale Steyn grabbed nine wickets in the match, including four in the second innings © Getty Images

Sri Lanka hosted South Africa in the first Test of their series. It was supposed to be the usual Galle track, without anything for the fast bowlers. Then the Phalaborwa Firebolt decided to dominate the day. Abhishek Mukherjee re-lives a day when the hapless Lankans were up against a rampant Dale Steyn.

Dale Steyn will probably remember the Galle Test as the one where he brought up a thousand Test runs. The world, on the other hand, will remember a rampant fire-breathing dragon that set fire to the Sri Lankan camp; the poor batsmen ran helter-skelter, only to be picked out by the dragon one by one; and the ones that managed to survive the massacre fell prey to that giant called Morne Morkel.

The five in the first innings were not outstanding scalps: the wickets had more to do with reckless batting than outstanding bowling. The spell had added to his count of five-wicket hauls, but it did not require a Steyn to produce a performance like that. The second innings was different. Sri Lanka were set 370. Steyn lured Upul Tharanga outside off-stump; the batsman fell for it, and Quinton de Kock did the rest.

Kaushal Silva and Kumar Sangakkara then steadied the ship. Sri Lanka were 110 for one at stumps. They needed 260 more. This was the territory of Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene: you do not conquer Galle until the Colossi crumble; even the heavy artillery has found it difficult over the years.

Then, on the fifth morning, that snarling beast spat fire on the fortress that had seemed impregnable the previous evening: poor Silva did not have a chance; the line was perfect, as was the length; Silva prodded at it, and then de Kock — brilliant enough to prove his worth as AB de Villiers’ successor with the big gloves — claimed a one-hander.

Steyn teased Mahela; the batsman was beaten; there was a huge appeal; Steyn made Hashim Amla review it; the appeal was turned down. Steyn teased Sanga, but he was too smart to poke at it. Sri Lanka survived a round of six bullets and were almost relieved to face the pace and bounce of Big Morne.

On came Vernon Philander, bowling just short of good length and getting the ball to jag take off after landing on the seam. On another day the world would have hailed Morkel and Philander; but this was Steyn’s time. Today was his turn to conquer Galle. Today was his day.

He made way for Imran Tahir, but the Lankans knew that he would be back after a breather. Amla brought him back immediately after Sangakkara had fallen to what was a horrible long-hop. The big guns had fallen. It was up to him now to ensure that the young brigade did not run away with it.

An over’s worth of cat-and-mouse ensued between Steyn and Lahiru Thirimanne. Then Steyn pitched one perfectly on length and moved it a tad away; poor Thirimanne, prone to opening the face of his bat every now and then — what chance did he have against that? The ball flew to de Villiers in the slips.

Dilruwan Perera had made his Test debut only earlier this year, scoring 95; unfortunately, his next two innings had read eight and one, and he had been snared by Steyn’s reverse-swing in the first innings for a duck. Here he was, marginally older to Steyn but nowhere close in confidence to the Phalaborwa Firebolt, facing his nemesis.

It was no better. He could only last two more balls. Steyn let loose a beauty that came in, straightened, and took the outside edge. It was not that Dilruwan did not want to evade: he could not; he was not talented enough to handle that Steyn snorter. Greater batsmen have fallen prey to such brilliance from the master.

His work done, Steyn, retired to the fence in his floppy hat, watching the rest of the line-up crumble, leaving Angelo Mathews stranded. South Africa had felled Galle for the first time in their history. When he was summoned on the podium for a deserving award, there was only one thing the fans wanted to ask Steyn: where did you buy those hideous shades from?

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here)

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (08:50 IST)   at Sydney

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Chittagong

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

More

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 22, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 87 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 21, 2014  at Melbourne

Australia won by 3 wkts

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 20, 2014  at Dambulla

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled(Match rescheduled to 21/11/2014)

Photos

Australia vs South Africa, 3rd ODI at Canberra

Videos

SL vs Eng: Buttler practices wicketkeeping in nets

Live Cricket Score Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2nd ODI at Chittagong: Bangladesh make steady start

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Odisha vs Punjab Semi-Final 2: Odisha fight to post respectable total

Live Cricket Score Vijay Hazare Trophy 2014-15 Bengal vs Karnataka Semi-Final 1: Karnataka post challenging target

Live Cricket Score Australia vs South Africa 2014, 5th ODI at Sydney: Farhaan Behardien cameo guides SA to 280/6 after 50 overs

India vs Australia 2014: How crucial are India’s practice games ahead of the first Test?

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 India New Zealand New Zealand tour of UAE 2014 New Zealand vs Pakistan New Zealand vs Pakistan 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs New Zealand Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of Australia 2014 South Africa vs Australia South Africa vs Australia 2014 Zimbabwe

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Bangladesh stable at 56/0 after 15 overs

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Bangladesh 42/0 after 10 overs

VIjay Hazare Trophy 2014: Karnataka set Bengal 269-run target

South Africa set a target of 281 for Australia in 5th ODI at Sydney Cricket Ground

Australia vs South Africa 2014: Farhaan Behardien scores his 2nd ODI half-century

ICC World Cup 2015: Australia in risk of overkill

Is Dhawal Kulkarni a contender for India’s ICC World Cup 2015 squad?

World Cup 1992: Arjuna Ranatunga masterminds first ever 300-plus ODI chase

India vs Australia 2014: How crucial are India’s practice games ahead of the first Test?

Rohit Sharma: India are serious contenders

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

681 Posts | 6 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli vs Australian cricketers

India one of the fastest growing markets for Twitter

International programme in Animal Husbandry

Government likely to carry out Phase III expansion of FM radio

How many calories do bananas have?

Sreesanth mentors Richa Chadda in Cabaret!

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

Bigg Boss 8: Arpita Khan and Aayush Sharma surprise Salman Khan

5 smart tricks to make your grocery shopping healthy

Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014: Bangladesh 18/0 after 5 overs

NGOs pursue education for all

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here