JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Dale Steyn produced one of the fiercest spells of fast bowling seen to tear through the Pakistan batting and reduce the visitors to their lowest test score, though the man himself considers he is just part of a nicely balanced attack.
Steyn bagged figures of six for eight as the Proteas dismissed Pakistan for 49 on day two of the first test at the Wanderers on a wicket that although helpful to the seamers, was certainly no minefield.
It is the third time in two seasons South Africa have bowled another team out for under 50, a run of success last achieved by England 125 years ago.
South Africa also skittled Australia for 47 at Newlands in November 2011, and New Zealand for 45 at the same ground last month.
The attack, led by Steyn, is drawing comparisons with the venomous West Indies pace battery of the 1970s and 1980s.
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore said he had never seen such ferocity from fast bowlers as Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander left his batsman unable to score runs and powerless to keep hold of their wickets.
Steyn’s on-field persona is one of aggression, but off it he is a laid-back surfer who does not enjoy the attention.
“I just want to do well for my country and for the team, we are pushing to create something really special,” he told reporters. “When this team puts its mind to it, we feel like anything is achievable.”
Although he refuses to be drawn on comparisons between himself and the West Indian and Australian fast bowlers of the past, statistics are in his favour.
When he reached 300 test wickets against New Zealand last month in his 61st match, he was the third fastest bowler in tests to do so after Muttiah Muralitharan (58th) and Dennis Lillee (56th).
Of players with 300 or more test wickets, no-one has a better strike-rate than Steyn’s of a wicket every 41 balls.
But what makes him certainly the best quick of his generation is not just his pace, but the ability to get the ball to do what he wants.
His career best figures came in India when he took seven for 51 in Nagpur on a flat wicket in 2010.
The conditions were not suited to him, but when the wicket offers little pace, he turns to swing, bounce and seam movement.
“When it is coming out nicely then speed becomes less important because you just let the ball do the work,” he said.
”A couple of years ago I was conscious of strike rates and always wanted to take wickets to lead the attack. This attack is led by everyone.
”Morne Morkel has opened the bowling on a number of occasions and Vernon has stepped in and stood up to the plate.
”Jacques Kallis is a legend in his own right and we have had some good spinners.
“We are enjoying our cricket and that helps you to be successful. As long as the team is winning that is the most important thing.” (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)