Dale Steyn will spearhead the Proteas' attack against Australia.
Dale Steyn will spearhead the Proteas' attack against Australia. Gallo Images

Steyn prepared to 'get a bit nasty' in WACA showdown

CRICKET: Batsmen have been walking out to the middle of the WACA bat in hand with a fair degree of trepidation for decades.

Combine a fiery fast bowler and a bouncy pitch and you have a recipe for disaster when it comes to trying to keep one's wicket intact.

Visiting West Indians, in particular, loved what the conditions in Perth would serve up, often dining out on hapless Aussie batsmen.

Think Andy Roberts (7-54), who savaged the hosts in 1975-76; Michael Holding (6-21), who terrorised them in 1984-85; and Curtly Ambrose (7-25), who destroyed them in 1992-93 with the most amazing spell of 7-1.

But Australian pacemen have at times given as good as their batsmen have gotten, with Merv Hughes (8-61) wrecking the Windies in 1988-89, Glenn McGrath (8-24) bamboozling Pakistan in 2004-05 and Mitchell Johnson (8-64) ripping through South Africa in 2008-09.

While the ground has lost a little of its lustre in recent years, compounded by the lack of genuine fast bowlers, members of the Australian and South African pace batteries will be lining up to make an impact when the first Test begins at the WACA tomorrow.

Peter Siddle, a veteran of 61 Tests, has been handed a berth for the hosts over the raw Joe Mennie. It will be Siddle's first match for Australia since February, and will provide captain Steve Smith with "a bit of experience”.

"It's good to have him back after a fair injury lay-off,” the skipper said.

But, either way, Siddle and Mennie were going to be support acts to the top billing that is Australia's Mitchell Starc and South African pair Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada.

Big left-armer Starc first showed the Proteas what he was capable of in Perth with a six-wicket haul four years ago, and against the Kiwis a year ago delivered a ball there clocked at 160.4kmh - the fifth fastest in history.

Opening batsman David Warner gave the visitors a "Starc” warning earlier this week when he said "if there's a bit more pace in the wicket it could be even scarier” than 12 months ago.

"He's bowing faster than I've faced in previous times,” Warner added. "He feels fit, he's bowling good line and length, and he was troubling our batsmen in the nets.”

While the South African batsmen may not have liked hearing that, the South African bowlers may have.

The Australian top order has been susceptible to spin bowling, as shown in Sri Lanka, but may struggle against some serious pace as well - and that's what Steyn and Rabada will bring at the opposite ends of their careers.

In just his sixth Test in June, young right-arm tyro Kagiso dismantled England, claiming match figures of 13-144 for a career total of 29 at 24 apiece.

"Kagiso” is said to mean peace in Rabada's Sotho language but it's anything but when the 21-year-old is in the attack. He has a love of short-pitched bowling that rattles opponents.

Medium-pacer Vernon Philander said batsmen could expect "a lot of heat” from Rabada, who has stated previously he was keen to "inch towards the 160kmh mark”.

Of course, with more than 400 wickets to his name, the great Steyn, 33, won't be underestimated either and is well prepared to go into battle once more for his country.

"There are going to be times where we have to step it up and get a bit nasty. But that's all part of the game,” he said.

"That definitely tests your character. It's part of Test cricket - testing your skills - and to get out there and basically win that moment for your team. It's going to be fun.”

HOW THEY STACK UP

STARC: 115 wickets @ 27.36 in 28 Tests  

STEYN: 416 wickets @ 22.24 in 84 Tests

HAZLEWOOD: 77 wickets @ 26.40 in 20 Tests

RABADA: 29 wickets @ 24.44 in eight Tests

SIDDLE: 208 wickets @ 29.88 in 61 Tests

MORKEL: 242 wickets @ 29.33 in 71 Tests

PHILANDER: 130 wickets @ 22.09 in 34 Tests


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