South Africa ended the second day of the Wanderers Test with a 212-run lead, but it wasn’t without its fair share of drama. The hosts were given an injury scare when Dale Steyn left the field inside the first hour clutching his shoulder.
Although Duanne Olivier, who did a little extra bowling in Steyn’s absence and was rewarded with 5 for 51, insisted that Steyn was “perfectly fine”, but the sight of him leaving the field will have caused some palpitations in the South African camp.
If fully fit, Steyn is a key member of South Africa’s pace arsenal as they look to wrap up a 3-0 win. However, with Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock at the crease and three more days remaining, Olivier suggested South Africa had not yet decided as to how much bowling Steyn might do in Pakistan’s second innings.
“I don’t think we’ve thought about it, too far ahead,” said Olivier. “He went off to get a bit of treatment, and he’s perfectly fine.”
Steyn, 35, had left the field around 40 minutes after the start of play, having bowled five overs first up. He worked up good rhythm in those overs, topping 146kph, but appeared to show some discomfort in his right shoulder during his fifth over, and left the field immediately after completing it.
His frustration was readily apparent as he punched the advertising boards in the Wanderers tunnel as he left the field, but he was back on before lunch, and even bowled two more overs. That would suggest the injury is not too serious, but that it has occurred on the same shoulder that underwent surgery in November 2016, is cause for concern.
While Steyn went wicketless in Pakistan’s first innings, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada both struck and Olivier starred with his third five-wicket haul of the series. His latest five-for took his tally for the series to 21, which is a record for South Africa against Pakistan, surpassing the previous record of 20 set by Steyn.
“I’d take it any day,” Olivier said of the record. “I just try to enjoy every moment, commit every ball and just have fun. To be leading wicket-taker, I’m very happy about that. It’s awesome to bowl at the Wanderers. Any fast bowler would be happy to bowl here.”
Olivier has settled into the ‘enforcer’ role laid out for him by coach Ottis Gibson and captain Faf du Plessis, once again putting his short ball to good use. It was even his go-to delivery after he had removed Babar Azam and Faheem Ashraf with consecutive deliveries to find himself on a hat-trick. The plan didn’t work, but Olivier nevertheless went on to claim his fifth wicket and helped to wrap up the innings. “I was trying to go with a bouncer, but it obviously didn’t go to plan,” he said. “It was too wide. It happens.
“I don’t mind it,” Olivier said of the enforcer role. “Every bowler is different. I don’t mind bowling short, and it’s been going well so far. On a different wicket, I wouldn’t bowl like that. At the Wanderers, you don’t really need to bowl that short. There’s enough bounce in this wicket. At Cape Town, you had to go a little shorter, and at SuperSport Park it was a little up and down which made it difficult for the batsmen.”
His performance helped South Africa to recover from an uncharacteristically sloppy start in the field, with ive catches, a stumping and two run-out being missed. “It is frustrating from a team point of view, but it happens, it’s cricket,” said Olivier. “We just needed to re-group and move on as quickly as possible, not dwell or think too much about it. The drinks break came, a bit of a break for us, and just tried to do the same as we’ve done before.”