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Sun Apr 20 00:09:18 SAST 2014

How India helped the Proteas win

MARK SALTER in London | 26 July, 2012 06:240 Comments
Dale Steyn says Hashim Amla gave invaluable information that helped the SA bowlers tailor their deliveries to punish the English

DALE Steyn says lessons learnt in India helped South Africa to destroy England in the first cricket test at the Oval.

Steyn, who led the attack with his 18th five-wicket haul in test cricket, said the Proteas had expected a bouncy pitch. Instead, according to England bowling coach David Saker, it was more like a surface in India.

Many of the South African batsmen had even prepared indoors so they could cope with a bouncy pitch, said Steyn. "But I have never seen one as low and slow as this. Fortunately we play a lot of cricket in the subcontinent. We knew it was important to bowl straight, to attack the stumps, to aim at the pads."

The direction of South Africa's bowling attack inevitably gave away many extras in leg byes - 39 over the two innings - but the Proteas were prepared to sacrifice that for the greater gain, as they did with the short ball.

"The wicket didn't allow us to bowl at 90 miles an hour, and the short ball was a very difficult delivery, because there was always a chance of it going for runs," said Steyn.

"But it was important that we carried on using it; we were happy to sacrifice a few runs to get the ball up [to the batsmen].

"Against Kevin Pietersen, Morne [Morkel] went for a few runs but he wasn't scared to keep going because we knew that if he could get the ball in the right area, we would come out on top."

The No1 bowler in the world is not modest about the achievements of his strike force, but he is not arrogant. While the heavy cloud on the second morning helped with swing, it was the lack of application by the England batsmen, when forced to play, that was a crucial element.

England have lost five of their last 12 tests on slow, dry wickets, four of those in the UAE and Sri Lanka.

The SA bowlers also spent a long time discussing the wicket with Hashim Amla, who in his innings of 311 over 13 hours, had plenty of time to get to know the characteristics and vagaries of the surface.

"The bowlers and the batsmen complement each other and we work closely together," said Steyn. "In this case who better to tell us about the pitch than Hashim; he described what length and what line was the most difficult. It all helped."

A team ethic in which focus on "the result" is paramount was epitomised by the declaration at tea on day four, which Jacques Kallis, just 18 runs away from a double hundred, fully endorsed.

This is what made the victory on Monday so special for Steyn.

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