This week, after a fresh dose of injury hell, you could be forgiven for wondering whether Dale Steyn’s brilliant Test career could be drawing to a close.
After bowling just 17.3 overs on his return to the Test side, the fast bowler broke down once more, this time with a left heel injury that could see him miss significant game-time for his country.
He has already been ruled out of the remaining Test fixtures against India and, as his recovery is estimated at four-to-six weeks, he is now rated doubtful for when South Africa host Australia in March – one of the most highly anticipated series of 2018.
Steyn broke down in the 2015 Boxing Day Test against England and missed the rest of the series. He returned for the World Twenty20 in March 2016 and claimed eight wickets in a Test match against New Zealand, but his shoulder collapsed in the Perth Test against Australia and required surgery, which ruled him out of the tour to England last summer. He was finally able to compete in November, returning in South Africa’s Ram Slam T20 tournament.
During this time, South Africa have learnt to cope without their former talisman, owed much to the emergence of fellow quick Kagiso Rabada, who has just claimed top spot in the ICC Test bowling rankings.
Shaun Pollock (Left) has 421 Test wickets for South Africa – two more than Steyn
Stein is also just three wickets away from overtaking Shaun Pollock as the highest ever Test match wicket-taker for South Africa, and in doing so will claim ninth spot on the global all-time list.
500 wickets – a milestone England’s James Anderson reached this past summer – would have surely been on the cards for Steyn, but he remains 81 wickets shy. Surpassing Pollock’s tally may provide a fitting and more realistic finale.