After South Africa’s large first innings score in the Second Test at Centurion it was always going to be difficult for New Zealand to save the match with South Africa able to set aggressive fields and reap the benefits of scoreboard pressure. However South Africa still had to take twenty New Zealand wickets and they did so thanks largely to Dale Steyn who took 8-99 from 36.2 overs in the match.
Steyn’s average speed throughout the match was 84.92 mph. Now he is older Steyn relies less on his pace—although he touched 89 mph on eight occasions in the match—and more on his unwavering accuracy and ability to swing the ball.
A Pitching Length Analysis for Steyn’s bowling throughout the match reveals that 175 of his 219 deliveries pitched within a five metre range between six metres and eleven metres from the batsman’s stumps. At the fuller end of his range Steyn pulls batsmen onto the front foot and at the shorter end generates well-directed bouncers.
According to CricViz’s Pitching Length Analysis Steyn bowled 82 balls within the length range categorised as short and bouncer – this is a high number but the average bounce obtained from these deliveries was 1.37 metres – in other words around chest height for most batsmen. Steyn can bowl a higher proportion of bouncers because his are so well-directed – for less accurate bowlers bouncers are a weapon utilised less often. From balls delivered at this length Steyn took 3 for 57.
More than half Steyn’s deliveries pitched within a four metre range between five and nine metres from the batsman’s stumps – a length range that encapsulates ‘back of a length’, ‘in-between length’ and ‘full’. The balls delivered at the fuller end of this length range are Steyn’s most attacking balls, forcing batsmen to play vertical bat shots which are vulnerable to swing and seam movement. From this length Steyn took 4 for 30.
Steyn only over-pitched fuller than five metres from the batsman’s stumps on 12 occasions. He took 1 for 6 from this length.
Pitching Line Analysis reveals that Steyn bowled most of his deliveries outside off stump which is not unusual in Test cricket and especially so for a bowler such as Steyn who naturally swings the ball away from the right hander and as such is likely to pitch a large number of balls outside off stump. From the 134 deliveries he bowled outside off stump Steyn took 4-50. From the 18 deliveries which pitched on off stump – arguably the perfect ball in Test cricket because it forces the batsman to play – Steyn took 1-2.
Ultimately though the most important aspect of Steyn’s bowling is his ability to swing the ball. It’s not necessarily about swinging it the furthest though, it’s about swinging it enough and it’s about being able to control it. There were other bowlers in the match who regularly found more swing than Steyn but couple his accuracy with his bowling intelligence and control and the result is deadly. Swing Analysis for Steyn wonderfully illustrates his ability to swing the ball both ways.