Philander answers fitness critics with Newlands nirvana

Vernon Philander of South Africa celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin of India during day 2 of the 2018 Sunfoil Cricket Test Match between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town on 6 January 2018.
Vernon Philander of South Africa celebrates with teammates after taking the wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin of India during day 2 of the 2018 Sunfoil Cricket Test Match between South Africa and India at Newlands Cricket Ground, Cape Town on 6 January 2018.
Image: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

Other fast bowlers would feel disrespected had their captain told the wicketkeeper to stand up to the stumps.

Other fast bowlers are not Vernon Philander‚ who owns new career-best figures after spearheading South Africa’s victory in the first test against India at Newlands on Monday.

Philander took 6/42 to play the starring role in the Indians — who were chasing only 209 to win — being dismissed for 135‚ which sealed South Africa’s 72-run victory.

His key wicket was that of Virat Kohli‚ trapped in front for 28 by an inswinger after being gradually drawn across the crease by a steady diet of outswingers.

Another of Philander’s big scalps belonged to Ravichandran Ashwin‚ who stood firm with Bhuvneshwar Kumar in a stand of 49 for the eighth wicket‚ India’s biggest of the innings.

It was ended immediately after Quinton de Kock crouched snugly behind the stumps to Philander.

Standing up to a new-ball quick? Who’s idea was that?

“You have to be open to those suggestions‚ but I’ll have to give to give this one to ‘Faffie’ [Faf du Plessis]‚” Philander said.

“Ashwin‚ at the time‚ was batting quite far out of his crease‚ and the wicket was a touch on the slow side and the ball was a bit older.

“I also felt that by pushing him back we could get all three dismissals into play.”

Ashwin slashed wildly at Philander’s first delivery of that over‚ and De Kock held a fine catch.

Three balls later‚ in which Philander had Mohammed Shami and Jasprit Bumrah caught at second slip with consecutive deliveries‚ the match had been won.

Almost as importantly‚ Philander sent down more overs across India’s two innings than any other South Africa bowler for his match figures of 9/75.

His workload was noteworthy considering that in August‚ during the tour to England‚ his conditioning was questioned by former South Africa captain Graeme Smith after Philander pulled out of the fourth test at Old Trafford with a back strain.

He went into that series on his way back from an ankle injury‚ suffered a hand injury in the first test at Lord’s and came down with a stomach virus that limited his contribution in the third test at The Oval.

But there was no doubting his commitment to to cause at Newlands.

“Coming out after tea I was a bit on the stiff side and I had to bowl two or three overs to get myself going‚” Philander said.

“Just before that last over I bowled ‘Faffie’ was going to bowl Morne [Morkel]‚ and I said to him‚ ‘Listen‚ I’m actually warm now‚ so just give me one more’. Luckily it paid off.”

So‚ was Smith’s admonishment a wake-up call?

“I like people to be constructive and open and honest with us as players‚” Philander said.

“You can take it personally and fade away or you can take it on board and make a play.

“I took it personally up front — we’re all human — but you try to get over it as quickly as possible‚ get better‚ do some work behind the scenes and come back stronger.”

Job done‚ and well done.

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