Dale Steyn is the type of fast bowler that every captain yearns for © Getty Images
Dale Steyn is the type of fast bowler that every captain yearns for © Getty Images

Dale Steyn completed 400 wickets in Test cricket during the second Test between Bangladesh and South Africa. In doing so, he achieved a landmark that only 12 other bowlers in the history of the game have managed. Shiamak Unwalla pays tribute to perhaps the greatest fast bowler of this era.

“How many did he take?” asks someone in the newsroom. “Three” comes the reply. “That’s all?” asks the former, shocked. As difficult as it may be to imagine, this is an interaction that took place in the first Test between Bangladesh and South Africa. It is not often that an overseas pace bowler taking only three wickets in an innings in Bangladesh is met with such a response. But then, there are no bowlers quite like Dale Steyn.

Glenn McGrath was mind-numbingly accurate. Shoaib Akhtar was faster than a normal Human Being ought to be. Mitchell Johnson elicits dangerous bounce. James Anderson moves the ball like a puppeteer commands his dolls. Steyn is a combination of the best of all these outstanding pacers. He is not as quick as Shoaib or as precise as McGrath; instead he is a hybrid of both men, combining speed and accuracy with devastating effect. He does not produce as much bounce as Johnson, nor does he swing the ball like Anderson, but unlike both men he does not need help from the surface to trouble batsmen.

Steyn is, simply put, the type of fast bowler that every captain yearns for. Need a tireless, marathon spell? Need a short, sharp burst? Need someone to take out batsmen on a featherbed? Need someone to intimidate batsmen at home? Steyn will answer all these calls and more.

Few pacers in recent memory have had the same impact as Steyn. To those of us who were not lucky enough to see the glory days of pace bowling in the ’70s and ’80s, Steyn appears to be as good a fast bowler as one can imagine. Steyn has won South Africa Tests in conditions as alien as India (more than once) and Sri Lanka, and dominated powerful line-ups both home and away. With him leading the attack, South Africa bowled out the opposition for under 50 three times since 2011. The numbers only back up his status as a modern pace bowling great, and one of the best of all time.

Below is a table showing the top five bowlers with at least 300 Test wickets in terms of bowling strike rate:

Name

Team

Period

M

W

BBI

BBM

Ave

SR

5WI

10WM

Dale Steyn*

South Africa

2004-2015

79

400

7/51

11/60

22.58

41.6

25

5

Waqar Younis

Pakistan

1989-2003

87

373

7/76

13/135

23.56

43.4

22

5

Malcolm Marshall

West Indies

1978-1991

81

376

7/22

11/89

20.94

46.7

22

4

Alan Donald

South Africa

1992-2002

72

330

8/71

12/139

22.25

47

20

3

Fred Trueman

England

1952-1965

67

307

8/31

12/119

21.57

49.4

17

3

As evidenced above, Steyn takes wickets more frequently than any other bowler with at least 300 wickets in Test history. Steyn takes a wicket every seven overs, which is better than legends like Malcolm Marshall, Waqar Younis, and Fred Trueman, among others.

Steyn is now a part of the exclusive 400-wicket club. Some of the greatest speedsters in the history of the sport have missed reaching this landmark. Steyn still has a few years left in him. As things stand, by the time he finally calls it a day he could well bow out as only the sixth entrant in Club 500.

(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek who loves cricket more than cricketers. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)