Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn represented the best of South Africa on the cricket field. One, a batsman of sheer class and the other a bowler, who created a reputation of terrorising batsmen on the pitch. It was to South Africa’s benefit that these stalwarts began their career in the same season and it is a matter of concern now for South Africa that both have decided to quit at the same time.
South Africa is undergoing a transition, struggling to fill the void created by the departure of quality players like Amla and Steyn now and AB de Villiers earlier. That South Africa had come to depend on them a lot was no secret. To get Amla and de Villiers early would bring cheer to the rival dressing room even though there was hardly any respite from the scorching pace of Steyn.
When Amla and Steyn were at their best, South Africa too was figuring among the top three of international cricket. It was a throwback to the times when South Africa, coming out of apartheid, was celebrating its return to the international fold with some sensational victories in Tests and ODIs. The presence of a calm Amla and a volatile Steyn triggered a wave of good performance in the South African ranks. It resulted in their fans enjoying the team’s domination and some victories underlined their significance firmly as the one against India in Nagpur in 2010. South Africa won that match by an innings and left India bruised and battered in four days of compelling cricket.
Amla’s knock of 253 not out, after coming to the crease in the fifth over, was a lesson in determined batsmanship. He had Kallis for company as the Indian attack, including Zaheer Khan, Ishant Sharma and Harbhajan Singh, was negotiated admirably. When India batted, Steyn ran through the innings with the kind of pace not seen often on Indian soil.
Steyn’s spells of seven for 51 and three for 57 were acts of hostility. He rocked the Indians with pace and beat them into submission on a pitch where Amla scored a double century and two Indians — Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar — hit a century each. It was disappointing that Steyn did not win the Man of the Match honours but what mattered most was that he scythed through a formidable batting line-up with a stunning display of pace bowling.