All-round Dale Steyn chuffed with maiden ODI fifty on comeback
Dale Steyn celebrates his first ODI half-century. @AFP

Dale Steyn has taken plenty of confidence from his maiden ODI fifty, in his first match in the format since October 2016, as he hopes to build himself into limited-overs form for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup.

In his first ODI in two years, Steyn was at the forefront of South Africa’s series-clinching win over Zimbabwe in Bloemfontein on Wednesday. His maiden ODI fifty helped the hosts from 101/7 to 198, and then two wickets up front set the tone for Zimbabwe to crash to 78 all out. His career-best 60 featured eight fours and the six that give him his first fifty in ODIs.

“That wasn’t me. I was discussing the lunch, and the next thing I knew, I was in to bat. 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,” said Steyn after the win. “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’s six overs on Wednesday cost 19 runs and saw him trap Solomon Mire lbw for 2 and Craig Ervine out mistiming a pull off a short ball for 3. Steyn was happy to have cranked up the speed in blistering Bloemfontein.

“My fingers were freezing! I don’t think I could feel the ball in the first over,” he said. “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.”

Sidelined by injuries, Steyn was named  in South Africa’s ODI squad for the Zimbabwe series and made public his intention to play the World Cup in England next year. Since South Africa finished the Test leg of their tour of Sri Lanka in mid-July, Steyn has been in England playing T20s and four-day games for Hampshire, which he credited for getting him “cricket fit”.

“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.”