Dale Steyn, who has battled for fitness since injuring his heel in the first Test against India in January, was given a rough ride on his return, playing for Hampshire in the One-Day Cup.
He went for 50 runs in his first five overs as Somerset, led by Peter Trego’s 100 off 101 balls and Pretoria-born Johann Myburgh’s 71 off 68 balls that attacked Hampshire’s offering of 356-9.
But, in typical Steyn fashion, he fought back to concede just 12 runs in his next three overs and crucially, at the death, took the wicket of Roloef van der Merwe and leaked six runs.
It was almost enough to halt Somerset’s charge, but they won the thriller with a four off the last ball from Chris Wood. He endured as torrid a time as Steyn, going for 58 runs off eight overs. Steyn ended with 1-80 off his 10.
The Phalaborwa Express’ comeback started promisingly enough as he gave away two runs and a wide in his first over. But then Myburgh lashed him for 18 runs in his second over, taking a six and three fours.
Steven Davies repeated the effort in Steyn’s fifth over with another 18 runs, including four fours, which enabled Somerset to reach 83-0 after 10 overs. Frustratingly for Steyn, Tom Alsop dropped a simple catch which should have altered that passage of play.
Steyn, who took the place of Hashim Amla as Hampshire’s overseas player, has been struggling to regain fitness since that injury after bowling just 17.3 overs in India’s first innings. That was a comeback, too, after a shoulder injury sustained in Australia a year before, in December 2016.
The brilliant quick, who needs just three wickets to overtake Shaun Pollock’s 421 strikes as the most prolific bowler in South Africa’s history, is desperately keen to regain his position in the Test team.
He saw the opportunity to play for Hampshire as an ideal way to get some game time.
Proteas team doctor Mohammed Moosajee will be watching with interest, saying his performance with Hampshire ‘will almost serve as a fitness test for the Sri Lanka series’.
James Vince, Hampshire’s captain, who had produced a sublime century earlier in the day, said Steyn’s rhythm gradually returned as the match progressed.
‘I thought he bowled well especially at the end,’ Vince said. ‘Up front, he went for a few but also had a few dropped off him which could have affected the way he went.
‘He only got off the plane a couple of days ago so hopefully he only gets better and better the longer he stays with us. He is a great bowler in all formats. He is a great asset to have and hopefully builds on today.’