Cape Town – When will Vernon Philander’s staggering run of
regular five-wicket hauls in first-class cricket finally peter out for a while?
It is a question observers and statisticians are having to
ask all the time, as the bustling Cape Cobras seamer hungrily awaits another
opportunity from Thursday to rack up a “five-for” or more in an innings.
His county side for the early part of the English season,
Somerset, visit Warwickshire’s Edgbaston base then for their second four-day
Championship match of the season.
The Birmingham Test venue has seen some proud exploits in
the past by great compatriots of Philander’s like Allan Donald and Shaun
Pollock, who both had productive stints with the Bears, but in-form Philander
will only be trying to cause heartbreak for the home faithful on this occasion.
With all the hype that surrounded Philander’s ascent to 51
wickets in just seven Tests – making him the joint second-fastest ever in match
terms to the 50-mark – perhaps people forget how devastating he has been in
first-class cricket more broadly over the last six months or so.
Across both the Test and four-day franchise codes, he has
now claimed at least a five-wicket haul in one innings in as many as seven of
his last 10 outings.
These include seven Tests, two SuperSport Series matches for
the Cobras, and his almost inevitably successful, winning debut for Somerset
against Middlesex at Taunton just a few days ago.
It was so nearly eight instances in 10: he got a
first-innings haul of “only” 4/72 against New Zealand in the first Test in
In receding order from most recent first-class games, these
are his performances (for Proteas unless otherwise noted): 5/43 and 2/38 for
Somerset v Middlesex, Taunton; 6/81 and 0/29 v NZ, Wellington; 4/70 and 6/44 v
NZ, Hamilton; 4/72 and 1/29 v NZ, Dunedin; 2/60 and 0/14 for Cobras v Lions,
Johannesburg; 7/61 and 2/28 for Cobras v Knights, Cape Town; 3/46 and 3/54 v
Sri Lanka, Cape Town; 5/53 and 5/49 v Sri Lanka, Centurion; 1/47 and 5/70 v
Australia, Johannesburg; 3/63 and 5/15 v Australia, Cape Town.
That adds up to a total of 69 scalps in 10 first-class
appearances – almost seven per match.
Commendably sandwiched right in the middle of his golden
spell has been a career-best innings first-class haul of 7/61 for the Cobras
against the Knights at Newlands, only proving that he has not allowed his
excellence to taper off with playing at the next tier down from Tests and
before the proverbial three men and a dog.
Thursday’s match at Edgbaston comes on a pitch that ought to
suit his trade better than the one where he got match figures of 7/81 against
Middlesex: Taunton is generally known as a graveyard for fast bowlers.
So don’t bet against further stellar achievement?
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