It was Dale Steyn’s ninth over on a sunny Boxing Day at Kingsmead. He had already conceded 36 runs in his previous eight. Two among those were maidens. The South African pacer, though, had also been hit for six boundaries—all convincing and all off the middle of the bat. He had been driven, flicked and also flayed through the covers on one occasion. There had been boundaries hit in both of his opening two overs.
More importantly, Steyn hadn’t beaten the bat even once. The Indians were yet again right on top of him.
The first ball of his ninth was a length delivery pushed into the covers by Cheteshwar Pujara. The second was driven back to him. Steyn picked up the ball and back-flicked it indignantly towards the midwicket fielder. The next delivery, a fuller one, was once more tapped straight back towards the bowler. This time, the 30-year-old fast bowler didn’t even bother to bend down. He simply kicked it away with contempt.
The final delivery of the over was over-pitched and right on Pujara’s pads inviting the Saurashtra right-hander to play a delectable on-drive. Steyn turned around immediately, snatched his cap from the umpire and was away, his shoulders sagging. No menacing stares. No staying put in his follow through.
Here was a frustrated man. Here was a premier pacer nearly reduced to his knees. Here was Steyn, that destroyer of batting line-ups, now having gone 60 overs without taking a wicket — his last one that of Shikhar Dhawan on the first morning at the Wanderers. A significantly prolonged vigil without a scalp for any bowler. Nothing short of an eternity for someone with a strike-rate of Steyn—he was taking a wicket every 41.4 balls before the Wanderers Test.
By the end of Day One here — brought to a premature close due to bad light— that draught would stretch to 68 overs. And while Steyn completed another day on the field with nothing to show for it, Murali Vijay and Pujara ensured that India, who finished the day on 181/1, came away with all the bragging rights yet