Dale Steyn is slowly getting back to his best and just in time for South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka. With only about a month left for the first Test in Colombo, the 34-year old fast bowler has been getting "overs under his belt" playing for Hampshire in county cricket, and said his "rhythm seems to be coming back."
Steyn began his stint going for 80 runs in 10 overs in a List A game against Somerset. Then he got through 26 overs in a first-class game against Surrey and picked up a couple of wickets along the way. And most recently, he helped secure victory in a one-day game against Yorkshire with figures of 1 for 34 in seven overs. The wicket was of India batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, caught at first slip as a result of extra bounce.
"The body's fine, body feels good," Steyn told Sky Sports. "I've got no problems. I'll have a look [at my bowling footage] in the computer when I get back up [to the dressing room]. One thing is I've got overs under my belt, the rhythm seems to be coming back. I've got a good followthrough going on which means there's good pace at the crease and I'm hitting the crease nice and hard. Yeah, everything seems to be ticking over nicely."
"[Kagiso] Rabada is so special. [Lungi] Ngidi's coming through nicely. I just hope there's a spot there for me when we get to Sri Lanka"
Injuries have plagued Steyn over the past couple of years, limiting his appearances for South Africa to only one match in 18 months. He suffered a fracture to his bowling arm in November 2016 and was benched until January 2018, when he played the first of a three-Test series against India. But things didn't go quite to plan.
"I love playing cricket," Steyn said. "I guess it's my job as well but I also love playing it. I've been out for two years now. I broke my shoulder and then really bad luck, rotten luck really, I came back and my first game back, I landed in a foothole and tore a little muscle in my heel. I've never had a foot injury in my life. So just rotten luck.
"I'm just chomping at the bit to get out and play. I went for 80 the other day but I absolutely loved it. It was great to be back out and playing again and I felt this is where I needed to be rather than petting my dogs and driving and getting stuck in traffic and doing the rehab thing. I need to be on a cricket field so I'll play for as long as this body can hold."
In any case, he is chasing a few records, not least the one for most wickets by a South African bowler in Tests. Steyn is three short of beating Shaun Pollock's mark of 421.
"I'd love to play all formats. Like I said, I love playing cricket. I think Test cricket is the pinnacle. I'd love to try and play 100 Test matches, I don't know whether I'll get there. I'm at 86, so that's about 14 more, but being a World Cup year, there's a lot of white-ball emphasis right now. So I think we've only got five Tests until around this time next year.
"So if I'm going to look to play the 100 Test matches, I'm going to be around for the next three years. That's 38. I think I can do it. The body seems fine. I've always been fit. It's a mental thing. How long do you actually want to do it for. If you've got a family and if you've got kids - which I don't but I do have a girlfriend and two dogs that miss me - and how much are you willing to give up. I think AB [de Villiers] hit the nail on the head. He's got two young kids and he's looking at life after cricket right now. He's reached that point but I'm not there right now."
Steyn is also keen to play alongside an exciting crop of young fast bowlers. "[Kagiso] Rabada is so special. [Lungi] Ngidi's coming through nicely. I just hope there's a spot there for me when we get to Sri Lanka. In those conditions you're always looking at playing possible two spinners. So good headache for the coach to have. When you get the opportunity to represent your country, you go and you make the most of it. I'm looking forward to going out there with some serious talent. The Proteas have someone to look forward to in Ngidi but Rabada's been special for about two years no already. We all know that."