Thursday, 26 January 2012

Ireland's vision for Test cricket.

Cricket Ireland have always shown to be ambitious with their approach to the game. So with the announcement today about their plans for the future which includes their goal of gaining test status by 2020. Not many were surprised about this announcement, there is numerous points involved in the article which was released.

The first points was to increase the participants of the game in Ireland to 50,000 players. While also aiming to be 8th in the World rankings. Also establishing a first-class cricket system.

Also in the piece was the big news that Ireland Coach Phil Simmons has agreed to extend his contract for a further two years, which will see him at the helm till the World Cup group stage qualification has finished, at the end of 2013.

While Ireland has always had the burden of potentially losing their quality players to their neighbours England, they have now introduced a further 23 contracts to players for 2012 a record number which was not seen before. This includes 12 first-choice senior squad players receiving category A and B contracts, while a further 11 players will receive category C contracts.

The full list of player contract awards is:

Category A: Alex Cusack, Trent Johnston, John Mooney, Kevin O'Brien.

Category B:  William Porterfield, George Dockrell, Ed Joyce, Niall O'Brien, Boyd Rankin, Paul Stirling, Andrew White, Gary Wilson.

Category C: Andrew Balbirnie, Peter Connell, Tom Fisher, Shane Getkate, Nigel Jones, Rory McCann, Andrew Poynter, James Shannon, Max Sorensen, Stuart Thompson, Albert van der Merwe.

"A key part of our success to date has been the move to professionalism," Simmons said. "With so many players on full or part-time contracts we now have a structure supporting the senior squad to make sure we can maintain our competitiveness on the international stage."

While Cricket Ireland has a strong squad of players, it's also needed to find the next batch of players through youth developments, and introuduce a series of initiatives designed to strengthen the game on the Island, which would help achieve the target of 50,000 players by 2015.

Some of the initiatives mentioned include:

The 'Get into Cricket scheme' - which is a major new programme targeting schools and clubs, to encourage 6 to 12 years olds to take up the game for the first time.

The National Cup - a new domestic National club competition for clubs not already competing in the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup. Which gives 32 new clubs the chance to compete for an All Ireland Title and the opportunity to play outside their local area.

The 'Better Clubs Initiative' - a programme which would help support local clubs across the country to improve their facilities. Which is a volunteer initiative aimed at encouraging local cricket supporters, their friends and families to undertake work to improve their local clubs.

The Cricket Ireland National Awards - This will be an annual event starting in 2012, whichw ill recognize players, coaches, volunteers, groundesmen, officials, and clubs for the contribution they make to the game in Ireland.

The establishment of Regional Academies to develop and foster young talent from the ages of 15-19 and ensure a pipeline of players for our International teams.

The re-launch of the Inter-Pro Series as a pre-cursor to setting up a first class domestic infrastructure in Ireland.

While this is very good, it's also important to get more games on the tv and after the success of Sky Sports coverage of the recent ODI between Ireland and England in Dublin. Sky have now announced that Sky Sports will cover the RSA Challenge versus Australia on Saturday 23rd of June in Belfast.

It's still vital for Ireland to gain more and more matches against top level competition, so it can continue to improve and grow as a cricketing nation. With the news of Sky Sports and their coverage of the ODI against Australia, it will bring the game of cricket to a far bigger cricketing audience than could have been previously dreamt of, which can only help Ireland in it's plans to grow.

Cricket Ireland has also announced that it has reached agreement on a series of new commerical funding deals that will underpin all of the programmes mentioned in the article.

While Ireland remains an associate nation trying to put a foot in the door of test cricket. It's the leading associate cricket playing nation, a position they have held for many years now. One thing is clear with this statement is that Warren Deutrom the Chief Executive, and the rest of the people working behind the scenes do indeed mean business and settling for second best is not good enough, these are ambitious plans put forward and I firmly believe the targets will be met.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Two-tier Test system.

Two-tier Test cricket.

Right now there is 10 full member Test playing nations in world cricket, Zimbabwe was recently invited back to participate at the test level. Now with all the talk about how test crickets popularity is falling by each test, added to that there is the huge rise in T20 cricket.

In my opinion test cricket is safe and will remain the dominant format of the game and rightly so. That's not to say there is nothing that can't be done to liven things up. I've been talking to many people on this subject and some ideas have been discussed and for me there is one reasonably easy solution.

I think something is needed to freshen things up, to bring a spark back into the format. The idea of a two-tier system in test cricket.

The basic idea of having the top eight full member teams compete in the top tier, whilst the bottom two, with the addition of the top six associate nations would join together and compete in the second tier. With this format you could make a promotion/relegation style to the game.

Now many people reading this who are fans of the Bangladesh and New Zealand cricket team will say this isn't the way to go, as this involves their teams being left to play in the second tier, as currently those two teams occupy the bottom two spots in the ICC Test Rankings but I think we have to start somewhere, cricket needs to progress and I feel it needs to expand.

So the basic idea is you have both tiers competing in test level cricket, playing the same amount of tests as everyone else. After a period of time has gone by and the the games have been competed, say over a two year period, then you would promote the top two from the second tier into the top tier. With that, you would have the bottom two from the top tier relegated into the bottom tier, some might look upon this as a punishment.

Then again it is simply that, a punishment. You could also look upon it as a way of giving your players the push they might need to run that bit faster, to save that extra run in the field, to take that catch, as it might be just that one piece of brilliance that keeps them in the top tier.

These teams who currently occupy the test level field have it too comfortable for my liking. Something needs to change, and I think people all over the world are starting to make a noise about this. Only recently I heard Ian Bishop and Nasser Hussain among others talking about this exact possibility.

We need to open the doors of test cricket to the smaller nations, why is it such a shut closed mentality with some nations. If given the funding and opportunities that the top teams get, then I don't see any reason at all why the likes of Ireland, Holland, Afghanistan etc, can't compete fairly with the big teams, give us the chance of playing with the bottom test teams, and if capable going past them, so that in two years time we can replace them and play in the top tier.

Cricket has the chance to expand it's horizons, it remains to be seen if they will do this. Or will teams be forced to wait till it's too late, where the promising young players that they produce at the associate level are picked to compete for their neighbouring countries, most notably with England. Eoin Morgan is the most high profile case at the moment, he couldn't see a future playing test cricket with Ireland so he knew he had to ply his trade across the water, so he could be given a test opportunity

How many more promising Irish players will have to leave before the ICC see sense, and give this a trial run.

The reason I use Irish players in this scenario is for the reason that, it mostly affects Irish players currently. It's no secret many Irish players compete with county teams in the English county championship, and after a short period of living in England they can be selected for the English national side, the morals of this is for a different day and a different topic.

For now the leading members involved in the ICC need to lead the way and advance cricket, by introducing this type of system, or even a system like it because right now the teams at the associate level are not given a chance.

Recently we witnessed England take on a team comprised of players from some of the associate teams, who joined forces to take on England in a three-day game, and many had the associates written down for a walk over but they couldn't have been further away from the truth.

England had eventually been set a target of 261 for the win, while many would have expected a more straight forward chase, it took a lower order fight to see England through to the finish, in the end they won by three wickets.

With all due respect to the English side, this team they competed against fought well and fought hard, not bad for a team compiled of associate players.

With that result, Irish seamer Boyd Rankin has come out in favour of the ICC granting a combined associate XI test status for future games like this, although in the proper test five-day format, this will not happen.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

My ODI team of the year 2011...

Now for the shorter format of the game, my ODI XI for the year 2011.

So my team is as follows,

Shane Watson(Australia)

I've not been his biggest fan when it comes to the test arena, but he holds his own in the ODI format, he is a hulk of a man and is capable of smacking any opening bowlers out of sync, he is one of the leading run scorers for the year 2011 with 1139 runs at an average of 56.95 and a top score of 185* - and that score of 185* was against Bangladesh, and had the total been higher for the victory then he would have seriously damaged the record for the highest ODI score in an innings, he didn't look like getting out.

Hashim Amla(South Africa)

The wristy Amla gets my second opener position, he has been of the star performers for South Africa over the last while, then in 2011 he continued his dominance and is currently the No.1 ODI batsman. Looking at his stats it's not hard to see why, with 632 runs at an average of 45.14 with two centuries and five half-centuries, he has been the rock of the South African batting order. While many felt he couldn't make the step from Test cricket to ODI cricket, he has proved them all wrong.

Jonathan Trott(England)

Now some of you might think I've lost the plot here, some might think Trott is too slow. Have a look at what he does for the team, he provides a solid anchor throughout the innings, he might not be the biggest six hitter the game has seen but he will keep an end shut and score consistent runs, even during the WC when a lot of fans were against him in the English side, he did still become the fourth highest run scorer for the entire World Cup with 422 runs at an average of 60.28. Some will still say he puts pressure on his team with his slow scoring but overall he deserves a spot in this team in my opinion.

Kumar Sangakkara(Sri Lanka)

Kumar comes into the side as my wicket-keeper batsman, he is a very classy left handed batsman, and has got some big runs during the year, and with a total of 1127 runs for the year at an average of 51.22 with one century and nine half centuries he is a certainty for any persons team, with so much pressure on his shoulders when he comes out to bat. Often he's been in difficult positions with wickets falling around him, and while still managing to keep the runs coming, he's a cool headed player and will be vital in the Sri Lankan batting order.

AB de Villiers(South Africa)

While AB didn't play in as many ODI's as some other in this team, I do feel he place is vital in this side, he brings controlled aggression,  he did score 467 runs at an average of 51.88, but his Strike Rate is 104.94, with two centuries and two half centuries. So once he gets going he converts his scores, and he rarely lets his side down. You can also add to his impressive credentials, that he is an excellent fielder and can also keep wicket. The inclusion of him as a wicket-keeping batsmen has allowed South Africa to add a further specialist batsman to the side, in my opinion, he is one of the best players in the world of cricket.

Virat Kohli(India)

The leading run-scorer for 2011 with a massive 1381 runs, which also got him four centuries and eight half-centuries, scoring at an average of 47.62. He is one of the leading lights for India in recent times, with some lovely strokes in his locker. He will hope to continue his form in 2012, as India look to get back to winnings ways.

Shahid Afridi(Pakistan)

When you think of Shahid ''boom boom'' Afridi, you think of a big hitting batsman, that no stadium is big enough for his shots, you think of power and aggression. Now the world cup changed that, he produced some stellar performances with the ball, and becoming the joint top wicket taker for the entire world cup with 21 wickets with best figures of 5/16 at an average of only 12.85. Also producing one of the most exciting deliveries of the year when he bowled Tim Southee with a 134km/h delivery. Despite not producing too much with the bat, he stills gets in as my all-rounder.

Brett Lee(Australia)

Many people throughout the world went into mourning when they heard that Brett Lee wouldn't be playing in test cricket anymore, he decided to try and save his body for as long as he could and focus on the shorter form of the game. It was a wise decision for the very likable Aussie, he picked up 33 wickets in the year at an average of 21.72, and considering he opens the bowling and he also bowls at the death, his figures are very tidy indeed, especially when his economy rate has been at a very low 4.59. He's one of the few Aussies that the English cricket fans like to watch, he is a gentleman in the way he plays the game, and it will be a very sad day for cricket when he has to hang up his quick boots.

Dale Steyn(South Africa)

I think you won't find many teams of the year for 2011, or indeed for the last few years that won't include Dale Steyn in all formats of the game, he has been one of the most consistent bowlers in world cricket for many years now, and his aggression at the wicket has most if not all batsmen in complete concentration, he's got 25 wickets for the year at an average of 19.32 but most notably he picked up 5/50 during the world cup, he is an excellent bowler and an absolute must in any side.

Saeed Ajmal(Pakistan)

The crafty Saeed has had a year to remember with the ball, picking up 34 wickets at an average of 17.08, he has been a huge part of the success Pakistan is having and with him and Afridi in the side, they look confident to continue their upward trend. All his good work has been rewarded when he was recently made the No.1 ODI bowler, and with a upcoming series against the No.1 test side in the world in England, this spritely bowler has a big challenge ahead of him.

Lasith Malinga(Sri Lanka)

Lasith much like Brett Lee has retired from test cricket to focus his body on the shorter forms of the game, and 2011 was a huge year for the fast bowler. He picked up a huge haul of 48 wickets for the year at an average of 19.25, which included his best figures of 6/38 and also picking up a hat-trick against Kenya when they had absolutely no answer for his rampant deliveries, his lethal yorkers at the death is a delivery that everyone knows is coming but still they can't keep them out.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

South Africa vrs Sri Lanka 2nd ODI, 14th of January 2012.

After a rain delayed start South Africa won the toss and put Sri Lanka into bat as they hoped for another crumble, it wasn't a collapse this time but they struggled to put runs up early and then their charge came to late. The total wasn't an easy chase by South African, they had a few bumps along the way but they stayed strong and completed the victory in the end, to take a 2-0 lead in the ODI series.

Match Report – 2nd ODI: Buffalo Park, 14th January, 2012

South Africa won the toss and Ab de Villiers had no problem in sending the Sri Lankans in to bat, but it wouldn't be long before disaster struck, 10 balls into the innings and Dilshan was run out for another duck, after Dilshan hesitated that sealed his faith, and the Sri Lankan captain was out.

For the next thirteen overs or so it would be a very tight affair with Sangakkara not wanted to get out easily and Tharanga had looked the more aggressive of the two but with the run rate just crawling along much would be needed to put a challenging total on the board.

Sri Lanka had finallu got a boundary in the 7th over from Morne Morkel, it was short and slapped to the right of the man at gully, and that was badly needed. Then just around the corner more problems for the visitors when the ex-captain was caught behind from a Tsotsobe delivery. Sangakkara couldn't help but poke his bat out, and despite the edge dropping alarmingly on AB, he keeps onto it.

Then Tharanga is given out caught behind but they decide to review it and hot spot shows nothing and the decision is changed and South Africa lose their appeal, and in retaliation Tharanga had enough of letting Duminy dictate play to him and smacks him for a big six, thought he didn't catch all of it, he got plenty in the end.

Chandimal is now the man to survive a run out, AB chases after one and attempts to throw the stumps down but he missed, had he hit Chandimal was out by a mile, then a couple overs later Tharanga isn't so lucky, he is caught behind from Morkel, he tried to make room to play the ball down to third man but isn't successful and despite his vigil at the crease he has to go.

Chandimal survives AGAIN, he's out if Amal hits but he missed and the stand continues.

Jayawardene had started to get himself in and after hitting the shot of the day or even the tour with a straight four down the ground, he then gets out with some fielding that would make Jonty Rhodes proud, a delivery on the pads and Mahela goes to whip it away and Steyn is inside the circle and short fine leg, he moves to his left and leaps off the ground and grasps it out of the air, a stunning catch by Steyn, showing that he is as capable of fielding as AB and du Plessis.

Kulasekara responds unlike most would in this situation but the runs were needed, and he promptly hits Steyn for two fours and a six in an over, showing that if you keep swinging sometimes your work will come to fruition, but the next over Kulasekara would be out from a Tsotsobe delivery, a stunning catch again, this time from Peterson.

Chandimal continued on his way of picking up important boundaries but was unable to grab his century, he finished on 92* and on the last ball of their innings Steyn had his man, Mathews looks to go big over mid-off but only gets the toe end of the bat and it goes straight to Morne at mid-off, they finish on 236/6 and it's a tricky target on a slow pitch.

Sri Lanka could have had Smith out on the 3rd delivery but Chandimal missed the stumps, and it wasn't long before Amla started where he left from with a big six over extra cover with a typicaly superb timed shot, then another six a few overs later with a flick over deep square leg, Amla is on fire.

Smith never really got going and it was up to Amla to take the pressure by scoring the bulk of the runs, and none better than with two consecutive boundaries from Dilshan, nothing was going right for Dilshan on this tour.

The drinks break had brought about the wicket of Smith, he hadn't looked to fluent and a short ball from Prasad and it's top-edged and caught easily by Tharang. Amla had continued to look fluent till Prasad claimed his second wicket, the ball came in a bit and Amla tried to play across the line but he's bowled and with both openers back in the shed, Sri Lanka have their foot in the door.

Nothing spectacular happened with Duminy and Kallis, they were happy to rotate the strike, and then Kallis played a shot he didn't need to play, and it was that man again, Pradad who took the big wicket, Kallis backed away looking to go over extra cover, but he sliced it to the man on the sweeper cover boundary, it was a shot that certainly wasn't needed and Kallis could put the pressure back on his team, but AB was quick to get of the mark from Prasad with a four behind square leg.

Duminy was determined not to let the rate slow and even set after Herath for a big six which brings the crowd to his feet and later in the over he takes a single to complete his 50, he's played the perfect role that was needed, rotating the strike and scoring valuable runs.

Then with the game looking certain to be over AB is run out, only AB could have tried that single when JP hit the ball straight to the man and Nuwan Kulasekara throws the stumps down and AB is out, and once again a partnership is starting to build and disaster strikes when Malinga has du Plessis caught and bowled but it's too little too late and South Africa win the game comfortably enough by 5 wickets.
Summarised Scores:
South Africa 237/5 (JP Duming 66*, Amla 55, Prasad 3-46) beat Sri Lanka 236/6 (Chandimal 92, Thuranga 66, Tsotsobe 2-43) by 5 wickets.
Man of the Match: JP Duminy.
Hero of the Day: JP Duminy.
Flop of the Day: Tilakaratne Dilshan.
Disappointment of the Day: The Sri Lankan old guard.

Monday, 9 January 2012

My test team of the year 2011...

The fun part of the year, but also the hard part of the year. When I get to pick my test team of the year.

My two openers are as follows,

Alastair Cook(England)

There is not many who can argue against one of England's finest batsmen, he scored a bucket load of runs in the recent Ashes series in Australia, and was the backbone of the English batting order, and showed to be very difficult to remove from the wicket. This is the same batsman who people had thought best to not send to the Ashes because of some mediocre form heading into it, he showed his doubters they were wrong.

Mohammad Hafeez(Pakistan)

A different style batsman than Cook, a more attacking batsman but still showed he has many talents with his range of shots, and he isn't a one trick pony, he is a very decent bowler also, picking up wickets at vital times for his captain. And is maturing into a very tidy batsman.

Now we go for the middle order, for my next player his name itself says it all.

Kumar Sangakkara(Sri Lanka)

Much has been said about how will Sri Lanka survive without Muttiah Muralitharan and one batsman who has certainly stood up for his country and fought as best he can do with the bat.
Kumar has shown this reliability and no better time than when he scored 211 in his teams second innings to save a test against Pakistan, in the recently complete series. There is very few better players of the cover drive than Kumar.

Rahul Dravid(India)

He is arguably the greatest player to have played the game and when the series started in England, between India and England, much was to be said about the big four batsmen India had at their disposal. But only Dravid stood tall, much as he has done for India ever since he has taken the fight up for his country. He produced hundredth after hundredth in the tour and if it's possible. He earned even more respect among the non Indian cricket community. The man is a gentleman on the field and away from it, he is India's wall.

Ian Bell(England)

One of the most improved batsman over recent years and showed it with some fine knocks in the recent Ashes series, and also in the series against India in England. He is a very fine strokemaker. And no false shots about him, his approach on the wicket and his technique is a joy to watch, and having a batsman of his calibre at 5 for England, it shows the depth of their squad.

Darren Bravo(West Indies)

The relation of the famous Brian Lara, he has much to do to get close to the achievments of Lara, and he is making a good go of it. Hitting 949 runs at an average of 49.94, including a massive 195, with 3 centuries and 3 half centuries to his name. He is fast becoming the player the West Indies need him to be, especially as the saga looms over Chris Gayle, and with Chanderpaul not getting younger, it's vital Bravo continues with his strong form and leads the West Indies from the front.

Mathew Prior(England)(wk)

He is England's batsman but has shown immense skill with the bat, having some very fine performances with the bat in the recent Ashes series. Though he didn't start very well with a golden duck during Peter Siddle's hat-trick. Scoring 85 and taking 6 catches, and in the fifth test he scored his first century against Australia from only 109 balls, and in doing so, he scored the fastest English test century since Ian Botham's 118 at Old Trafford in 1981.

Stuart Broad(England)

Stuart Broad had a dry spell going into the Ashes but that all changed with some wise words from the coach, but with an injury picked up during the Ashes he was forced to go home. He still finished the year with 33 wickets at an average of 22.30. But his big turning point for the year was in the series against India at home, where he picked up 25 of those 33 wickets, with an amazing average of 13.84, he stunned the Indians with his lines and length, to show why he is one of the best in the modern game.

Dale Steyn(South Africa)

The mighty Dale Steyn, if looks could kill when this man bowls then most batsmen would be dropping like flies. He is fiery bowler with a fierce stare to him, he is a very quick aggressive bowler. And has been the no.1 seam bowler in the test rankings for many years now. And he's taken only 28 wickets this year so far but he's played only 5 matches, and with an average of 19.57 and an economy of 3.06, that's put him right up there.
And has struck up a mighty fine partnership with Morne Morkel, which has given South Africa one of the finest pairings of opening bowlers in world cricket.

Saeed Ajmal(Pakistan)

Much of Pakistan's return to form can be given to Saeed Ajmal, he finished the year top of the wicket takers, with 50 wickets at an average of 23.86. This came from only 8 matches, and he also produced 11/111 in one combined match against the West Indies, but it wasn't enough to win the match, they lost the game by 40 runs due to some indifferent batting by Pakistan. I know this is for test cricket, but he also became the No.1 ODI bowler following a successful series against Sri Lanka. With this he has announced himself as Pakistan's top spinner in all forms of the game.

James Anderson(England)

James Anderson has had a very good year, first he lead from the front with 24 wickets during the Ashes at an average of 26.04, if that wasn't enough. He was to return home and during the hyped India series in England. He picked up a further 21 wickets at an average of 25.71. He with Stuart Broad has given England one of the finest bowling attacks in World cricket, and has certainly pushed England to the No.1 spot in the test rankings. Though with a series against Pakistan coming up, all of his experience will be needed as England look to dominate the world of cricket even further.

Friday, 6 January 2012

My no.11 bowler - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

My No.11 isn't really a No.11 order player, he should be and for his country he is much higher.

Graeme Swann(England)

He is a very good right-arm off spin bowler, with lots of generous flight and really tweaks the ball with lots of spin. To me when you see Swann bowl, he has the face and aggression of a very fast seam bowler, he looks like a man ready to fight. He's an aggressive bowler, not too well known for using the Doosra like other off-spinners, but instead likes to use a developed arm-ball or his own flatspinner delivery he's nicknamed the ''Flying Saucer Ball''

 I love his attitude to the game, his love of the game and the way he shows it on the field. Some might think it's border line overconfidence or arrogance. There is no harm in some of that when you have the skills to back it up, something which Swann has in abundance.

He currently is the No.3 bowlers in Test level cricket and No.4 in ODI cricket. He also has a very good habit of picking up a wicket in the first over of a spell. Something in which he holds the record for doing so. He has taken 25 wickets so far while doing this.

Also in March 2010, he became the first English off-spinner since Jim Laker to take 10 wickets in a match, when he took the haul in a test match against Bangladesh.

He also is a very handy batsman also, with 6991 first-class runs to his name and four centuries, which shows he is no mug with the bat. He is a vital part to England in all forms of the game, as they look to continue their dominance in Test level cricket.

Monday, 2 January 2012

My no.9+10 bowlers - (My favourite playing XI based on current players)...

Right my next players is one of the finest bowlers to have played the game.

Brett Lee(Australia)

He is a very speedy seam bowler, and despite getting on in years he has still got a strong yard of pace. He had to retired from test cricket due to the demands it had on his body and try focus on the shorter forms of the game. Where less was needed. He still plays for Australia in the shorter formats, many cricket fans have seen the new an exciting prospects that our coming through the Australian ranks, especially the seamer in James Pattinson who is showing to be a very fine prospect.

But in my opinion you can't exclude Brett Lee from any Australian side if fit, he is an absolute fighter on the field for Australia, he gives 110% to everything he does, he would bleed for Australia if it would help Australia achieve victory, despite all these traits. He is a gentleman and I've not come across a cricket fan who doesn't like Brett Lee, or as some would call him Binga. He is not only a household name in Australia but also India where fans roar his name.

Despite all this he is also a very talented lower middle order batsman, and willing to grind out a score for his team, none more than in the second ashes test in England in 2005 where he came agonisingly close to winning the test for Australia with 43 not out.
One of the iconic images came from this match when Flintoff leaned down to comfort Lee after his amazing effort with the bat.

Now for No.10, I've gone for someone who has been on the top if his game for many years now.

I've gone with Dale Steyn(South Africa)

The mighty Dale Steyn, if looks could kill when this man bowls then most batsmen would be dropping like flies. He is fiery bowler with a fierce stare to him, he is a very quick aggressive bowler. And has been the no.1 seam bowler in the test rankings for many years now.

Steyn holds the record for the fastest South African to reach 100 wickets in test match cricket. He is also very low in the order, he is quite inconsistent with the bat, but when he does hit them, they stay hit. And has shown to be capable with that over recent years. For me with a fast bowler it's all about aggression and controlled aggression, as in you want speed and anger when bowling but without throwing in free hits and no balls to the opposing team. You get this controlled aggression with Steyn and for me that puts him ahead of the rest in this department.
Only choosing Brett Lee over him, has Lee stayed playing test level cricket.

And has struck up a mighty fine partnership with Morne Morkel, which has given South Africa one of the finest pairings of opening bowlers in world cricket.