Dale Steyn became the second South African bowler to take 400 Test wickets after he dismissed Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal on the opening day of the second Test in Dhaka on Thursday.
The 32-year-old fast bowler reached his landmark when South African skipper Hashim Amla took a chest-high catch at first slip in Steyn's third over of the match.
Shaun Pollock is the only other South African to pass the 400-mark, taking 421 wickets before retiring in 2008.
Steyn, who is playing his 80th Test, became the 13th cricketer to take 400 or more wickets in Test matches.
He is one of only three currently active cricketers to achieve the feat, joining India spinner Harbhajan Singh and England paceman James Anderson.
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The moment a proper ‘English’ pitch was provided, things got back to normal for Alastair Cook’s side in the Ashes. A spicy wicket was the need of the hour for England to raise their sapping morale after the thrashing at Lord’s and that’s what they got for the Edgbaston Test.
A responsive surface plus overcast conditions meant there was enough for the swing bowlers to exploit, but someone still had to get the job done. Step forward James Anderson.
The Lancashire seamer had struggled in the last three innings, where he failed to pick up a single scalp. Questions had started to be asked about the 32-year-old’s effectiveness, which was only fair.
Anderson simply didn’t look menacing on flat surfaces. Very few fast bowlers do but Anderson is no ordinary bowler. With more than 400 wickets in his kitty, he is the most successful England bowler of all time and a lot more was expected from him.
To his credit, Anderson didn’t let three poor outings on difficult surfaces tie him down. It would have been very easy for him to overcompensate for previous failures and lose his focus when the opportunity arrived. But he didn’t allow his intensity to drop and when he got a chance to bowl on a day one Edgbaston wicket, he was back to his usual self.
One over is all it took to settle down to his line and length as Anderson trapped David Warner leg before with a typical nip-backer. The right-arm quick had found his rhythm and nothing was going to stop him.
Rain threatened to play spoil-sport all day but Anderson never lost his cool. The pace was back, topped with a hint of late movement. Of the six wickets that he took against the Aussies on the opening day, one was lbw, two caught behind, a couple were bowled while one batsman was snapped up at slips. All of which show the batsmen were beaten by genuine swing and seam.
— ICC (@ICC) July 29, 2015
It is to Anderson’s credit that he has not let his critics, including this writer, make him forget that he can still trouble the best in the business on his day. To be on the money the moment conditions turned in his favour is a testament to Anderson’s mental fortitude.
With younger and quicker bowlers like Mark Wood and Mark Footitt coming through, the pressure was on Anderson to come up with the goods and he has done it with aplomb.
It means England can breathe a little easier as they will now be in no hurry to hunt for a possible replacement in the near future, provided Anderson maintains his fitness levels. In fact, he has reclaimed the position as the leader of the attack and the No 1 bowler in the country.
What Anderson has done with his opening day burst is lift the morale of England for the rest of the Ashes. By dismissing the Aussies for a paltry 136, he has also freed up England’s batting line up who will be able to bat with a lot more intent in the ongoing Test as the pressure of the scorecard will squarely be on Australia.
Once the opposition is bowled out for a low score on day one, invariably they are playing catch-up as they can’t attack all the time. Australia will be keeping an eye on every leg bye and stolen run because they don’t have a lot to play with. And the paranoia will be all thanks to Anderson’s six-for.
The thing about class players is they know how and when to raise their game. Anderson made the most of the opportunity that was presented to him and he has put England in a great position to gain the upper hand.
And finally, Anderson must have given the England management enough reasons to ask for more seamer-friendly pitches for the last two Tests of the series.
Whatever the results of the Birmingham Test, the fact is England will be in the game as long as there is some help in the pitch and Jimmy is getting those outswingers going. He has already shown that Australian batting is not all that solid and it can be shot out for less than 150.
The Ashes is at the half-way point and the team which gains momentum here will most likely carry it to the end. And if England do end up on top, they can thank Anderson’s mighty six for it.