Steyn licks his wounds after 'worst day of cricket career'

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The Independent Online

For South Africa's ace fast bowler there was no equivocation. "It was the worst day of my cricketing career," said Dale Steyn after watching his side plummet to 76 for 6 in the second Test against England. "There was no anger in the dressing room. There's no time for anger. I came out of the shower and I had to put my pads on.

"They were able to bowl straight, wicket-taking balls because they had built up such a massive lead. That was something we couldn't do when they batted, but they did it well."

England employed their game plan perfectly on the fourth day of the match. By its end they led by 156 runs and need only four more South Africa wickets to take a surprising 1-0 lead in the four-match series. Having hung on for a draw with one wicket in hand at Centurion there are shades of last summer's Ashes about this impending victory.

Then England left Cardiff after a valiant draw when it seemed that Australia must win. The following week, form was turned on its head by England's first victory against Australia at Lord's for 75 years.

So it has been here. But England can hardly have expected the dramatic twist in fortune which has occurred in this match and reached its apex yesterday. After they had built a lead of 232 thanks to Ian Bell's beautifully crafted innings of 141, they tore through their opponents' top order.

For a few overs both Graeme Swann, bowling guileful off-spin, and Stuart Broad, hitting the kind of unwieldy length which Glenn McGrath made his own for a decade, made life torturous for South Africa. Their top six batsmen were swept away for 50 runs.

"We got ourselves into a deep hole and we probably need a bit of weather around to dig ourselves our of it," said Steyn, who finished England's innings with a belated, two-wicket flourish.

Steyn was equally candid about Bell's innings. "It was probably career-saving," he said. "After what happened at Centurion people were saying he had probably played his last innings for England. He played very well, he is a good player, not to be undermined."

If it was not Bell who put the seal on England's day, it was he who set it up in the morning. He agreed, however, that he was fighting for his international life. "I knew I was under the pump a little bit. There is talk of whether you play six batters, or five batters and an extra bowler. I needed an innings no doubt about it and I needed something now."

It allowed the bowlers to attack. How they did. "Swann was fantastic," said Bell. "He seems to make things happen and he doesn't seem to take long to settle into a superb line and length and Broad again, as soon as he hits his line and length, was immediately asking questions.

"You have to be able to bowl accurately. It's still a very good wicket and we went out and did some really good things there by not making it too complicated and banging out line and lengths." Bang out a few more today and England will be home and hosed by lunch.