With England enjoying a resurgence under instinctive captain Michael Vaughan, they travelled to South Africa looking for a first series win there since 1965. What greeted them was a South African team boasting star names – Graeme Smith, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini. But the talk of the town were two kids making their Test debuts; a flashy strokemaker by the name of AB de Villiers and a young tearaway bowler called Dale Steyn. Rumour had it that Steyn was quick – unpredictable – but quick. And he could swing it.
Marcus Trescothick was the first to find this out, his stumps shattered by a ball that swung back sharply to hand the 21-year-old Steyn his first Test wicket. But this was the highlight of an otherwise disappointing start, summed up by first-innings figures of 2-117 as England built a slender lead.
Chasing 142 for victory in their second innings, the tourists found themselves reduced to 11-2 when the England skipper strolled to the wicket. This was a batsman brimming with confidence, one who’d already scored three Test hundreds that year and was averaging 45. He dug in, steadying the ship and adding 31 runs with Andrew Strauss in 11 overs.
To stand any chance, Smith had to break the partnership. He gambled and tossed the ball to his young debutant, whose second and fifth balls promptly flew to the fence as Vaughan looked to find his stride.
Steyn was agitated, the England captain looked dominant. But he had no idea what was to come. The lithe and whippy young seamer steamed in and let fly with his sixth delivery, angling one into Vaughan, who shaped up for a trademark on-drive, but the ball swung – almost impossibly late – and sent his off stump cartwheeling. Steyn was jubilant, Vaughan was stunned. The match – and the series – was eventually won by England, but a new South African star had been born.
First published in June 2012.