Cape Town – It will be extremely difficult for Vernon
Philander ever to emulate the glittering start to his Test career.
The Cape Cobras all-rounder grabbed wickets almost for fun
in his earliest exposure to the game’s premier format, including nine hauls of
five wickets or more in an innings in his first 15 appearances for the Proteas.
But then he was bumped back to earth statistically for a
fairly extended period, as the next 20 Tests saw him fail to earn a single
“five-for” and disruptive injury woes, including a troublesome hamstring and
ankle, hardly helping his cause.
Nothing if not a fighter, the now 31-year-old is back on
what could be termed at very least a mini-roll: two wickets in the first over
of the third day’s play of the first Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park
on Wednesday saw him complete an 11th personal five-wicket haul as
he registered exemplary figures of 5/45 in 20 overs.
Encouragingly for his fan club, it was his second in three
Test matches, coming on top of his crucial, quick-fire 5/21 in the eventful
first innings of the decisive second Test against Australia (85 all out) at
With Philander to the fore, South Africa needed just under
eight overs to mop up the Sri Lankan first knock, as the tourists receded to
205 all out, from 181 for seven, and a deficit of 81 runs.
The bustling, durable seamer has advanced to only three
wickets short – and there is little reason to assume conditions in Port
Elizabeth won’t aid him again in the Sri Lankan second innings – of reaching
150 career victims in Tests.
When he inevitably gets there, Philander will become the
eighth South African to hit the landmark, following in the footsteps of
still-leading Shaun Pollock (421), and then in receding order Dale Steyn,
Makhaya Ntini, Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis, Morne Morkel and Hugh Tayfield.
As things stand, Philander (21.76) sports a better average
than any of them …
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