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AUSTRALIA V SOUTH AFRICA TESTS

Steyn to scotch two heads of Aussie 'snake'

30 October 2016

Proteas spearhead to target key figures Smith and Warner in upcoming Test series

South Africa's bowling spearhead Dale Steyn has Australia's Test leaders Steve Smith and David Warner in his trademark stare as he aims to "cut off the head of the snake" to render the home team impotent in the upcoming series.

As both teams mingled with and signed autographs for fans at a waterfront launch of the three-match Commonwealth Bank Test Series at Perth's Elizabeth Quay today, Steyn took his chance to launch the opening salvo of the campaign.

And did so with venom, identifying skipper Smith and vice-captain Warner as the wickets the bush boy from Phalaborwa (on the fringe of the famous Kruger National Park) will be aiming to bag when hostilities begin for real at the WACA Ground on Thursday.

Quick Single: Watching fast-bowling gets me going: Steyn

"I want to make life difficult for everyone," Steyn shot back when asked if he planned to make the going uncomfortable for under-pressure Australia allrounder Mitchell Marsh.

"I think the captain is the main guy.

"The biggest guys that are going to score runs for them are probably Dave (Warner) and Steve (Smith).

"So if you can cut off the head of the snake, the rest of the body tends to fall.

"We've done that in the past.

"We've tried to attack the captain because he is the leader and cause a bit of chaos there, and sometimes it does affect the rest of the guys."

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Steyn, who with 416 Test wickets to his name needs just six more to overtake Shaun Pollock as South Africa's most successful Test bowler of all time, admits that he is no longer the most intimidating presence in the Proteas' attack.

That honour now belongs to 21-year-old fast bowler Kagiso Rabada who Steyn predicts will subject Australia's top-order to some serious new ball "heat".

Quick Single: A different role for allrounder Marsh?

But the 33-year-old, who is making his third and almost certainly his final Test tour of Australia, learned from the time he made his international debut more than a decade ago that the best way to stifle an opposition is to subjugate its leaders.

A truism that was often mouthed by earlier incarnations of Australia teams led by Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting, and in which Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne would publicly target their rival skipper and other trump players before each series.

So Steyn has chosen to turn up the heat on Smith and Warner, both of whom were members of Australia's ODI touring party that suffered an unprecedented 5-0 series loss on the Proteas' home soil last month.

No doubt I need runs: Marsh

When asked to detail why he had singled out the captain and his deputy four days before the first Test gets underway, Steyn harked back to the influence and the impression by Waugh and those who followed.

"I think the Aussie captain, they lead the attack," Steyn explained. "From my history of looking at Australian cricket you look at guys that are great players like Steve Waugh.

"He stands out, I don't think many people can name a team underneath him but you remember Steve Waugh.

"You can remember Ricky Ponting, and Michael Clarke and then Steve Smith falls into that bracket.

"The moment you can get hold of your captain the rest of the players, in my opinion, rely heavily on him.

"He leads the ship so when you pull the plug on that kind of ship and he's holding it you can sink it.

"It's not very easy but there's a way to sink it."

Quick Single: Cummins sets sights on Ashes return

While he included Clarke in that list of emblematic Australia captains from throughout his playing tenure, he dismissed any suggestion he was looking forward to meeting up with his once fierce rival during the course of the Test series.

Steyn and Clarke were involved in a heated verbal exchange during the most recent Australia-South Africa Test, on a tense final day at Cape Town in 2014.

Steyn later revealed he had been deeply offended by Clarke's words on that afternoon, and rejected subsequent attempts from the former Australia captain to smooth the waters suggesting the pair would remain at odds until he received a formal apology.

For his part, Clarke – who Steyn dismissed a remarkable nine times in Test cricket – has recently indicated he is keen to chat with Steyn during the coming summer where he will be working as a commentator with Channel Nine.

But when asked today if he planned to catch up with his former foe and broker a truce, Steyn added yet another Clarke dismissal to his resume.

"He (Clarke) is not playing, so I don't think it's of any relevance to this series to be honest," Steyn said.

"If he comes, it's fine.

"I'm not really bothered.

"I'm more focused on the guys we're playing against.

"That's old news."

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Meg Lanning Steve Smith

About the Writer

 @ARamseyCricket
@ARamseyCricket

Andrew Ramsey is the senior writer for cricket.com.au. He previously wrote for the Guardian, The Australian, The Times, The Telegraph, The Hindu and Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack and the author of The Wrong Line.

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