South Africa pace spearhead Dale Steyn isn't considered to be amongst the best fast bowlers of all time for nothing. Steyn is at his lethal best in Test cricket, where he can take some time to find his rhythm; but there are also occasions when unfortunately for the opposition batsmen, the Protea pacer gets into the groove early on in the shorter formats of the game as well. When he's on song, there are hardly any better sights in cricket than watching Steyn make the best batsmen look like novices.
Most recently against Mumbai Indians at Visakhapatnam on 9 April 2012, Steyn produced one of the best bowling spells one can hope to see across formats, let alone Twenty20 cricket where even his South African counterpart Richard Levi found him too hot to handle. Steyn, playing for Deccan Chargers, had figures of 4-1-12-3, and each of those 24 deliveries were an exhibition of world-class bowling as he also worked up some serious pace; but despite this he was mighty unfortunate to end on the losing side in this match.
Steyn conceded a boundary off his second delivery, but soon afterwards took an unbelievable catch in his follow-through to send Mumbai Indians' opening batsman T Suman back to the dugout.
Steyn, however, saved his best for Levi, who would have faced a fair bit of his bowling in the nets as both play for domestic franchise Cape Cobras as well as for South Africa. Levi would be glad for the most part that he doesn't have to face up to Steyn in matches too many times, but as they play for different teams in the Indian Premier League, the right-handed opening batsman was at the receiving end of a sensational over from the pacer where he was nicely set up before having his middle stump uprooted.
In his second and the fourth over of Mumbai Indians' innings, Steyn mixed up each of his deliveries to give rise to questions aplenty in Levi's mind. Steyn started with a good length delivery; his next ball was outside the off stump; the third was a slower delivery that not only deceived Levi but narrowly missed the off stump; he followed this up with an excellent bouncer; the fifth ball was a short delivery and the last delivery was the sucker punch as a swinging yorker sent Levi's middle stump tumbling over. This is an over that can be watched over and over for its sheer brilliance in setting up a batsman for his dismissal, and should be made a must-watch not only for all aspiring fast bowlers, but also for opposition batsmen.
Steyn then returned to bowl towards the end of the Mumbai Indians' innings and conceded only two runs in his third over (the 15th of Mumbai Indians' innings), as Kieron Pollard had no answers to the short deliveries coming his way. Amit Mishra leaked 14 runs in the 18th over, and Steyn bowled the penultimate over with the opposition needing 23 runs to win. Steyn conceded only four runs in that over as he kept a tight line and length apart from mixing up his deliveries and also clean bowling Dinesh Karthik; but his outstanding spell was spoilt by Daniel Christian who conceded 21 runs in the last over as Rohit Sharma stole the win for Mumbai Indians. Despite being on the losing side, Steyn was undoubtedly one of the stars of the match as he showed the reason he is held in such high esteem in world cricket.
When Steyn made his international debut in a Test match against England at Port Elizabeth in December 2004, he was essentially a pace tearaway, who relied on his speed as well as movement to terrorise the opposition batsmen. But, from 2007-08 onwards, Steyn has also been mixing up his deliveries intelligently; and that combined with the more intelligent use of his pace, movement and length have made him the world's best fast bowler in the last five years.
Steyn is also the leader of an outstanding South Africa fast bowling attack that includes Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and the impressive youngster Marchant de Lange; and while this means he may not take as many wickets as he would like, the 28-year-old is happy playing his part in the Proteas' success and is patient enough to be rewarded for his performances.
Steyn hasn't played in the shortest format for South Africa since May 2010, but he is expected to spearhead his country's attack in the 2012 Twenty20 World Cup to be held in Sri Lanka. That certainly is a piece of news that won't be music to the ears of the opposition line-up, who would have been relieved not to face Steyn in Twenty20 Internationals; but all that's about to change as he looks to haunt the best international batsmen in all formats of the game.