Express pace. Perfect line. Immaculate length. And the ability to swing the ball both ways. South African pacer Dale Steyn is the prototype fast bowler. The Phalaborwa Express has been the bane of every batsman that has been pained with the blight of facing him, especially in red-ball cricket, where Steyn has been one of the best bowlers to have ever played in the sport.

Like many pacers, Steyn had lengthy layoffs owing to injuries but seldom did that affect his ability to pick up wickets and win games for the Proteas with the ball. The Steyn Remover announced his retirement from Test cricket last August to focus on white-ball cricket and extend his career in his late 30s but his exploits in red-ball cricket shall forever be the hallmark of his legacy. 

Below, we take a look at his best performances in Test cricket: 

6-49 vs. New Zealand in Centurion (2007)

2007 was the year Steyn established himself as one of the premier fast bowlers in the sport when he ripped apart the Kiwis in New Zealand’s Tour of South Africa in November that year.

After dismissing New Zealand for 188 in the first innings of the second Test match led by Steyn’s four-wicket haul, South Africa scored 383 in return, leaving the Kiwis 193 runs behind on the scoreboard. Steyn was seemingly in no mood to see his team bat again, as the pacer ran through New Zealand’s top order to leave them on the brink of defeat. 

Steyn then dismissed Brendon McCullum before dismissing Mark Gillespie to complete his five-wicket haul, but the Steyn Remover wasn’t satisfied, as he picked up the final wicket of the match to finish with six wickets in the second innings and 10 in the match for the second time in his career.

6-50 vs. India in Durban (2010)

The second Test match between India and South Africa at Kingsmead, Durban in 2010 will forever be remembered as India’s maiden away Test match victory over the Proteas, and while the rest of his team were certainly sub-par in that match, Steyn was at his usual best. 

The pacer picked off both Indian openers as well as Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman to reduce India to 130-5. Steyn then broke what later proved to be an important partnership between spinner Harbhajan Singh and Indian captain MS Dhoni by dismissing the former first, to complete a five-wicket haul, and then picking off the Indian captain to finish with 6-50.

Steyn picked up 2-60 in the second but it was India who won the match by 87 runs. This was one of only three instances where South Africa have lost a match in which Steyn has picked up a five-wicket haul, with the other two coming against Sri Lanka, once in 2006 and the other in 2011.

7/51 vs. India in Nagpur (2010)

Rarely does the Indian cricket team lose a Test match at home, let alone by an inning, but during the first Test of South Africa’s Tour of India in 2010 at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur, they did, owing to a masterclass from the Steyn Gun.

The visitors won the toss and posted a mountain of a score (558/6) on the back of Hashim Amla’s 253* and Jacques Kallis’ 173. The first inning may have made it seem like the pitch was conducive for batting but Steyn proved otherwise. He bamboozled Murali Vijay and got the prized wicket of Sachin Tendulkar before cleaning up the Indian tail all on his own, picking up five wickets in four overs and bundling India out for 233. 

The Proteas enforced a follow-on and Steyn picked up three more wickets in the second innings, completing his fourth 10-wicket haul in Test cricket and helping his side inflict an innings defeat on the Indian team.  

6/8 vs. Pakistan in Johannesburg (2013)

Arguably his greatest performance ever, Steyn produced a spell worthy of the Louvre at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg against Pakistan in 2013, picking up half a dozen scalps and bowling Pakistan out for just 49. 

Steyn got Mohammad Hafeez caught behind on the penultimate ball of his second over before catching Nasir Jamshed LBW on the first ball of his third. Younis Khan was his next victim five deliveries later, before dismissing Saeed Ajmal caught behind in his seventh over. Sarfaraz Ahmad and Rahat Ali were Steyn’s fifth and sixth victims, respectively, as Pakistan were bundled out after just 29.1 overs. 

Steyn picked up 5-52 in the second innings to complete a 10-wicket haul and help the Proteas win the contest by 211 runs. 

6-34 vs. West Indies in Centurion (2014)

If Steyn doesn’t get you in the first innings, he’ll make sure he does in the second. Against West Indies at the SuperSport Park in Centurion in 2014, Steyn went wicketless in Windies’ first innings after South Africa posted 552/5 in their batting effort. West Indies, in response, could only muster 201 but managed to keep Steyn at bay. However, the pacer came back with a vengeance in the second innings.

With West Indies at 87-2, Steyn steamed in and picked up a wicket in two successive overs to break the back of the visitors’ batting lineup, before picking up two more scalps in a span of three deliveries to reduce the batting side down to 105-6. A couple of overs later, Steyn completed his 25th five-wicket haul in Test cricket. The pacer then picked up the final wicket of the match to help the Proteas register a massive victory over West Indies.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gianluigi Guercia