Philander’s ‘forgotten’ feat
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Such was the craziness of the second day’s play in the first Test at Newlands on Thursday that Vernon Philander’s significant post-isolation landmark got rather lost amidst the drama.
The 26-year-old from this city’s less-than-opulent Ravensmead community, in playing the headline role during Australia’s second-innings implosion for 47, simultaneously earned the achievement of registering the best match figures by a South African debutant in the 20-year period since the country’s return from the wilderness.
Philander, whose bustling keenness and get-it-up-to-the-bat characteristic look like making him a very useful seamer addition to the Proteas’ tour party to No 1-ranked England next year, picked up a lightning five for 15 to accompany his first-innings three for 63, giving him a game haul of 8/78 in 28 overs.
That places him 32nd in history on the overall international list, which is headed by then 19-year-old Indian leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani’s incredible 16 for 136 against West Indies in Chennai in 1988.
But he is also fifth among best South Africans, the top performer being Alfred Hall – albeit Lancashire-born – who earned 11 for 112 against England at the very same Newlands in 1923: he currently lies seventh overall.
And the Cape Cobras man has the additional satisfaction of knowing that he has been the most stellar bowling debutant for South Africa since the achievement of unity two decades back.
The closest to Philander is Lance Klusener, who had an altogether more topsy-turvy debut against India in Kolkata in 1996, first being smacked for an unflattering nought for 75 in the home team’s first innings, before being the fourth-innings match-winner with a sudden eight for 64 to give him a match analysis of eight for 139.
An interesting feature of that Test was that it wasn’t even deemed enough to earn him the man-of-the-match award: it went to current national coach Gary Kirsten for centuries in each South African innings.
Richard Snell, in South Africa’s maiden post-isolation Test against West Indies in Bridgetown, bagged four wickets in each innings for a match haul of eight for 157.