Philander back in 4-day action
Vernon Philander (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - South Africa's Cricketer of the Year, Vernon Philander
, makes his much awaited return to the first-class game when he turns out for the Cape Cobras in the latest round of Sunfoil Series matches.
This contest against the Warriors at Boland Park, Paarl, is a top-of-the-log clash with the home side only 0.94 points ahead of their Eastern Cape Rivals.
This will be Philander’s first appearance since he produced a superb all-round performance to be named Man of the Match in the final Test match against England at Lord’s back in August. His five-wicket haul in the second innings plus his maiden Test match half-century went a long way to clinching the series 2-0 for the Proteas as well as the No 1 position on the ICC Test match rankings.
The Proteas leave for Australia at the end of the month for their three-match Test series against the No 2 ranked team and, apart from continuing his phenomenal form of the past two seasons in South Africa’s four-day competition, he will be looking to fine-tune all aspects of his game.
After the disappointment of two weeks ago when the Cobras never got on the field against the Knights at the same venue, the teams will be pleased to see no rain in the weather forecast although there will not be too many jerseys left in the dressing room as temperatures will remain chilly.
Each team has a win and a draw to date. The Cobras had a convincing away win against the Lions before having their match against the Knights washed out. The Warriors thrashed the Titans in their opening match, but only a solid eighth wicket partnership between Simon Harmer and Adrian Birch, assisted by a liberal dose of bad light, saved them from defeat against the Dolphins in East London last weekend.
The Warriors have never been a force in the four-day competition. Indeed, the Eastern Cape franchise has only won fifteen of its 82 four-day matches to date despite their success in the limited overs formats. However, a solid performance in the corresponding fixture during the Christmas holidays last summer, also at Paarl, ended a long unbeaten run for the Cobras and played a major role in their failure to capture a hat-trick of SuperSport titles.
One man instrumental in that triumph was Harmer. The blond off-spinner routed the Cobras in their second innings with career best figures of eight for 72 and a match haul of eleven for 149. He went on to be the leading wicket-taker in the series with 44, and was rewarded with a call-up to the South Africa 'A' team.
Coach Piet Botha is excited about the prospects for the 23-year-old product of Pretoria Boys High. “Harmer’s talents are not limited to his bowling, as he is a useful batsman and a fine fielder. He is a fine replacement for Johan Botha.”
The Warriors attack also has three useful seamers in Birch and Basheer Walters while they will also be strengthened by the return of Wayne Parnell
from World T20 duty.
The batsmen have also been in form with consistent scores from Ashwell Prince
, Colin Ingram
, Davy Jacobs and his opening partner, Michael Price. Ingram was the Man of the Match at Paarl last summer as his scores of 140 and 92 not out trumped the efforts of Harmer. Another smile on the coach’s face comes from the availability of Jacobs, whose last few seasons have been dogged by injury problems. Botha said there was a leadership vacuum as a result of his absence due to injury while the stand-in captains were also being called up to the national squad.
Another factor in favour of the Warriors could be the slow pitch. While efforts have been made to breathe life into the Boland Park strip, the Warriors have often felt more at home at this venue than the Cobras. Botha feels that the pitch for the match last season was similar to that of St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
Nevertheless, the Warriors face a formidable task. The Cobras are oozing with talent, and the return of new captain Justin Ontong
and Philander should beef them up even more. The squad for the first two matches has been retained with the addition of these two Protea players, and Beuran Hendricks might be the seamer to miss out.
There might be a bit more for Paul Adams to scratch his head over in the batting department. He would be hesitant to leave out a player of Justin Kemp
Both Kemp and Qaasim Adams recorded ducks in their only innings in Potchefstroom and were given a chance to regain their form in the Western Province Provincial Challenge match against Border over the weekend. Adams responded with a career best score of 147, in challenging circumstances, while Kemp was unimpressive in his turn at the crease. Kemp does have the advantage of being a useful fourth seamer, but his bowling in the weekend’s match lacked penetration in helpful conditions.
Adams is still considering his options, with the final team to be announced on match day.Squads:
Cape Cobras: Andrew Puttick, Alistair Gray, Yaseen Vallie, Stiaan van Zyl, Justin Ontong
(captain), Justin Kemp
, Qasim Adams, Dane Vilas, Vernon Philander
, Rory Kleinveldt
, Johann Louw, Dane Piedt, Beuran Hendricks, Siya Simetu.
Warriors: Davy Jacobs (captain), Michael Price, Jon-Jon Smuts, Ashwell Prince
, Colin Ingram
, Kelly Smuts, Athi Dyili, Simon Harmer, Wayne Parnell
, Andrew Birch, Basheer Walters, Lyall Meyer.