While South Africa captain Faf du Plessis praised his attack’s efforts in the first Test against Australia at Kingsmead in Durban, there is little doubt the Proteas are hankering for the return of Dale Steyn.
The Australian lower-order was the biggest problem for the Proteas, with Australia losing their fifth wicket at 177 in the first innings and 156 in the second; they went on to score 351 and 227.
Those extra runs were undoubtedly the difference in the game as South Africa’s last four wickets could contribute just 12 and 15 runs in their respective innings.
The chief reason for that was Mitchell Starc, who reverse-swung the ball late at high pace, and Steyn is the other prime exponent of that skill in world cricket.
“I thought our bowlers were really good, in both innings they were around 160 for five, but we need to be a bit more ruthless, like they did in running through our tail pretty easily. Mitchell Starc was the real standout, but Dale is also very deadly when it comes to reverse-swing skill. But he’s not available right now,” Du Plessis said ruefully.
While Steyn is on the comeback trail from his heel injury, and is bowling in the nets again, South Africa will only be able to rely on him from the third Test onwards.
That Newlands Test starts on March 22, with a match for either the Titans or Northerns before that on the cards too for the 34-year-old.
While batsman Temba Bavuma no longer has a protective guard on his right hand, he was still shaking hands with the left in Durban, so he looks set to once again remain on the sidelines in Port Elizabeth, where the second Test starts on Friday.
Theunis de Bruyn showed with his gutsy second-innings effort at Kingsmead that he is on the right track in his Test career, and has done enough to deserve another chance in Port Elizabeth.