Proteas

Proteas metronome Philander keeps ticking on

2018-04-05 12:05
Vernon Philander (Gallo)

Johannesburg - In the press box at the Wanderers on Tuesday, lunch was served at 10:00, just as the first ball of the morning was being bowled. 

It left more than a few cricket scribes confused, yet just 82 minutes later, the match and series was over. 

Somebody at the Wanderers clearly knew what was coming. 

On that fifth and final morning, Vernon Philander was other-worldly. 

In the space of just 33 balls, South Africa's metronome took six wickets as Australia collapsed from 88/3 at the start of the day to 119 all out to bring the curtain down on a miserable series for the visitors. 

Philander had impressed all series long, but without the reward. 

Going into that final day, the 32-year-old had taken just 10 wickets over the four Test matches, but it wasn't the result of poor bowling. 

Philander's effortlessness in hitting a length, time and time again, is incredible. Added to that accuracy is his controlled ability to move the ball both ways in the air. 

Throw in a surface that offers the seamers something, and Philander becomes almost unplayable at times. 

He certainly was on Tuesday.

Often, ‘Big Vern’ is too good to find the edge, and throughout the series he has looked on as batsmen played and missed. That much dominance without wickets must be frustrating, but the reward finally came on the last morning of a Test series that will never be forgotten. 

After his devastating spell, Philander finished the series with 16 wickets at an average of just 16.81

In the process, he became the seventh South African to take 200 wickets in Test cricket - he now has 204

53 of those scalps - more than a quarter - have come against Australia. 

During the Wanderers Test, Australian bowling coach David Saker said that there wasn't anybody in world cricket more accurate than Philander, while stand-in captain Tim Paine acknowledged that "he was too good for us". 

All of the South African seamers in the series finished with an average of below 20. 

Man-of-the-series Kagiso Rabada finished with 23 wickets at 19.26, Morne Morkel with 15 at 19.60 and Lungi Ngidi with 5 at 15.00

Philander, though, was easily South Africa's most economical bowler, going for just 2.08 per over. The pressure generated from his end throughout the series is impossible to measure, but it was there for all to see. 

Equally impressive was the fact that he got through 129 overs in the series. To put that into perspective, 22-year-old Rabada bowled just 12 more. 

Philander's physical condition and fitness have been areas of concern for the Proteas leadership in times past, but he has well and truly silenced those critics this summer. 

"Obviously KG got all the wickets and the plaudits, but I’m especially pleased for Vernon as well," Proteas coach Ottis Gibson said at the completion of the series.

"I set him a challenge at the start of the summer, I’m not going to tell you what it was, but he exceeded what I challenged him to do.

"You saw at the end of the day today (Tuesday) that he was still the one guy running in and bowling the overs and getting the wickets.

"He’s had a fantastic summer and I’m very pleased for him."

Gibson also had a special word for Morkel, who has now retired from international cricket.

"It’s a shame to see this guy next to me go with the way he is bowling at the moment," he said.

"He’s going to be a handful for batsmen wherever he is going to play."

It is not clear, meanwhile, if Philander will feature in Gibson's plans to play in the 2019 World Cup. 

Read more on:    proteas  |  vernon philander  |  johannesburg  |  cricket
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