Dale Steyn says he’s in good shape after bowling 26 overs for Hampshire in his first red-ball appearance for five months.
The South African seamer is with the club throughout June as he bids for a Test spot against Sri Lanka next month, having pulled out of the Test series with India due to a heel injury.
But while his pace was noticeably down as Surrey scored 368 in their first innings at The Ageas Bowl, Steyn is happy with the way he has come through.
He said: “The body is feeling good. I got through 26 overs in the first innings which was pretty good but more than I thought I would have to bowl. The body feels fine and if we had to bowl this evening I would have been good to go again.
“You obviously want more wickets but I don’t want to judge myself right now. Coming back from injury I want to make sure I can play without picking up another injury which is more important to me. At the same time, wickets win games for Hampshire.”
Steyn did manage to claim two wickets — that of Sam Curran, caught in the cordon wafting, and Jade Dernbach lbw — and struck Dernbach on the helmet two balls before dismissing him, but after the first day Hampshire head coach Craig White had described his team’s bowling performance as “a little bit floaty.”
At 34 years old — he turns 35 later this month — it says plenty of his priorities that he is spending time in county cricket to bid for a Test return. He remains three away from becoming South Africa’s leading Test wicket-taker.
“Overs are the most important things,” he said when asked of his prospects. “I kind of need to find my feet right now. Find my lengths, find my line.
“The four-day stuff will sort that out. It gives you time to find lines and lengths and time in the length, it will give time in the legs, you build strength in the body, my sides and everything gets used to the pain. And come July I should be ready to go.”
Steyn is expecting to return to Hampshire after the Test series, which ends on July 24, although if he were selected for the subsequent ODI series — another ambition of his — he would return in late August.
He spoke at the end of a second day which saw his side firmly “staring down it,” bowled out by Surrey for 135 and being made to follow on, still 233 runs behind.
Rikki Clarke finished with figures of 5-29 and bowled superbly in tandem with Morne Morkel, with Hampshire’s batsmen on the end of some vicious bouncers and swinging full deliveries.
Clarke said: “We’ve spoken about it, bowling in partnerships. The ball, we had a little bit of swing all day and it was nice that we could just land it in the right areas, we caught well and got ourselves into a good position.
“Hopefully we can come back, early tomorrow, get a few more wickets and really put them under pressure.
“I’d rather he’s standing at slip than facing it from 22 yards,” Clarke added of Morkel. “His rhythm, everything he brings to the game. His pace [and his] areas were brilliant.”