Speedster ... South African fast bowler Dale Steyn. Photo: Anthony Johnson
PHIL HUGHES'S gain could be Australia's pain after Dale Steyn completed his preparations for the first Test by bowling what one teammate described as the fastest spell he had seen from the speedster in ''six or seven years''.
In a burst unlikely to build confidence among Australia's premier batsmen, Steyn delivered an ominous five-over cameo during which Jacques Rudolph estimated the speedster broke the 150km/h barrier.
Steyn's venomous spell not only claimed the wicket of opener Liam Davis but also left A.B. de Villiers grimacing with pain after awkwardly taking a fierce bouncer. The wicketkeeper immediately threw his glove off to inspect the damage, sending shockwaves through the Proteas camp, though did not leave the field and completed the match.
''It was definitely one of the quickest spells from Dale I've seen in the last couple of years, but AB's fine - he'll be ready,'' said Rudolph, who used to play in the same domestic team as Steyn. ''I played against him a couple of years ago where he bowled the same kind of spell. He must have been hitting 150km/h.''
Steyn's spell will come as a warning for Australia's under-pressure openers David Warner and Ed Cowan, who are both battling form issues before the series-opener starts on Friday. Even more alarming for Australia, Steyn's final effort came on a placid SCG wicket which will be in stark contrast to the bouncy deck likely to be at the Gabba.
''It seams, and that suits us because those are the kind of wickets we play on at home,'' Rudolph said. ''For our bowlers, it will be important not to get carried away with the bounce. The length will be important, and we need to settle into that as quickly as possible.''
Hughes was the major benefactor from Steyn's fearful spell, surviving to make what Australia A skipper Andrew McDonald joked was one of the finest one not outs he had ever seen.
''I hope that Phil Hughes grows a leg from that,'' said McDonald, whose Victorian teammate Rob Quiney was also unbeaten. ''Dale threw everything at Phil and Phil got through, so I think that's a confidence booster going into whatever may lie ahead for Phil Hughes.
''Dale ramped it up from the first innings. I think it was quite evident he knew he was only going to bowl five or six overs and he threw everything at our two batters out there.
''For them to come through that against the world's best bowler, or one of the world's best bowlers, is a fantastic effort. I'll go on record here and say it's one of the best one not outs I've seen.''
Steyn's closing spell was the highlight in an otherwise drab three-day tour game which finished inevitably in a tame draw with Australia A on 1-13 after the Proteas declared on 6-277 in reply to the hosts' 480.
The Proteas, however, could not be more pleased with their return from the match. In contrast to Australia's top seven, each of their players scored runs and were able to spend time in the middle.