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08 December 2023

Steyn leads charge of pace brigade

Steyn is one of the most feared fast bowlers. (AP)


Batsmen are expected to have a ball on flat sub-continental pitches in the World Cup - only if allowed by Dale Steyn and other skilful speed merchants.

Pitches may be slow but there is always room for quality pacemen to make a mark, as was proved by Australian Craig McDermott who was the leading bowler with 18 wickets when the Cup was hosted by India and Pakistan in 1987.
South African Steyn, Sri Lankan Lasith Malinga, England’s James Anderson, Indian Zaheer Khan and Pakistan’s Umar Gul will be the pacemen to watch.
Also hungry for success will be Australian pace duo of Brett Lee and Shaun Tait, who have recently returned to the one-day side after recovering from injuries.
Lee, who missed the last Cup due to an injury, was the second-highest wicket-taker in the 2003 edition in South Africa with 22 scalps, while Tait caught the eye in 2007 with 23 wickets.
Steyn is no stranger to Indian conditions, having given a magnificent exhibition of swing bowling to destroy the hosts for a meagre 76 with a five-wicket haul in the second Test in Ahmedabad in 2008.
Pace, backed by controlled swing, makes Steyn one of the most feared fast bowlers. He has an effective new-ball partner in Morne Morkel, capable of keeping pressure on batsmen.
Steyn recently proved too hot to handle for India in the home series when he was his team’s highest wicket-taker in Tests with 21 scalps and the third-highest in one-dayers with eight.
‘Slinger’ Malinga will be keen to renew his love affair with the World Cup after his impressive exploits in the last edition in the Caribbean which saw him finish among the top-six bowlers with 18 wickets.
The Sri Lankan, known to produce accurate yorkers and excel in death overs, has the ability to do the unexpected.
He made World Cup history last time when he grabbed four wickets off as many balls in a Super Eights clash against South Africa in Guyana to raise prospects of an unlikely win for Sri Lanka, who eventually lost the match by one wicket.
Like Steyn, Anderson also is in form having played a significant role in England’s first Ashes triumph in Australia for more than two decades, with 24 wickets in five matches.
England, who have not made it to the semifinals in the last four editions, expect Anderson to retain his wicket-taking ability. Their pace attack looks effective, especially with Stuart Broad regaining fitness ahead of the event.
Zaheer, known for providing early breakthroughs, was one of the bowling stars on a recent tour of South Africa where he grabbed 10 wickets to help India draw a tough three-Test series and nine scalps in one-dayers.
Gul is expected to be Pakistan’s trump card as he can extract bounce even on slow pitches and rattle batsmen with yorkers, which makes him one of the most effective pacemen.
He is also the bowler in form, having recently taken 13 wickets in his team’s win in a two-Test series in New Zealand. His best in one-dayers came last year when he rocked England with 6-42 at the Oval.
Gul, the highest wicket-taker in the inaugural Twenty20 World Championships in South Africa with 13 scalps, became the first bowler to grab five wickets in the next edition in England, against New Zealand at the Oval.
“I have really developed my yorker by watching videos of (former Pakistani pacemen) Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. They have really helped me,” Gul said after his five-wicket haul.