South Africa in England 2012 July 26, 2012

Philander keen to stay on upward curve

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Vernon Philander, South Africa's new-ball seamer, has admitted that he would "definitely be a bit concerned" if he was in the same boots as England's attack ahead of the second Test at Headingley next week. After going 1-0 down in the series, if England lose they will also lose their No.1 ranking and while their batsmen have plenty to answer for, the lack of fight in their bowling also needs addressing.

England's attack toiled for 189 overs and more than two days on an unresponsive Oval surface and had only two wickets to show for it. Given the conditions and that they kept the run-rate at below 3.5 an over, they may not have been too disappointed with their performance if not for South Africa's contrasting showing.

The tourists dismissed England twice and were able to find swing, bounce and turn that eluded England. Although South Africa had the better of the bowling conditions, under cloudy skies and with enough moisture in the air for the ball to swing, they also made better use of what was at their disposal. Few would argue that in the battle of the two attacks, who were talked up as the best in the world, South Africa are leading.

"I can't really speak for the England attack but my thoughts would be on how I can get the guys out and trying to think of alternative plans," Philander said at Worcester, where South Africa will play a two-day tour match from Friday. He also offered an explanation for the South African's penetration and it had nothing to do with their ability with the ball. "It was beautiful watching Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla start it off and Jacques Kallis stepping it up. It gave us the confidence to take the 10 wickets we needed in the second innings."

After a victory as resounding as the one South Africa enjoyed on Monday, the trip to New Road will offer a sobering comedown from the highs of London. South Africa may have preferred to go straight into another high intensity contest because they have the advantage with them, but Philander said they also understand, and relish, the rare time in between matches. "When you win a game, you want to get into the next game as soon as possible but this break gives us time to recover properly."

It also provides a period to reassess their strategy and while South Africa's tactics would appear to need no adjustments, there is some work to be done. Philander, for example, experienced a coming down to earth after his barely believable start to this Test career. After taking 51 wickets in seven matches, he claimed only two at The Oval and while he said he expected the curve to change direction at some point, he also wants to keep it pointing upwards.

Talk before the series was that Philander would find England tough and perhaps even struggle but he maintains that he "bowled really well" in the first Test. "I beat the bat on numerous occasions and there were a lot of nicks that didn't carry."

Although still confident he can induce edges, Philander said he has also had to work on other ways of threatening the batsmen with the Duke ball. "It's a bit slippery with the newish nut and as soon as it gets past the 25th over it goes a bit soft. Then you've got to find new ways of taking wickets," he said. "The edges don't really carry to slip or to the keeper so we've got to try and get an lbw rather than get conventional nick offs."

The extra match will also give South Africa's middle-order time in the middle, after everyone from No. 5 missed out in the Test. "There are a lot of guys that haven't batted so it gives them the opportunity to have a bat," Philander said. "And for the guys who are on the side, this will give them an opportunity to play."

Tami Tsolekile, Albie Morkel, Robin Petersen and Lonwabo Tsotsobe all play in the match. Tsolekile is expected to keep and AB de Villiers, who did the job in the Tests will play as a batsman and captain in Graeme Smith's absence. Smith flew home on Monday to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. His daughter was born on Wednesday.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SICHO on July 29, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    @landl47 Philander did beat the many times but the edges didn't carry as explained in this article. Judging by your comments you actually expect Philander to take 5-fers whenever he plays, which in reality is near impossible and not going to happen.

  • landl47 on July 29, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Sorry, folks, but saying England bowled poorly (which they did) doesn't mean that Philander bowled well. He was tidy, but he didn't do much with the ball and didn't beat the bat often. He bowled a very good ball to get rid of Cook, but otherwise he didn't look like a bowler who had taken 51 wickets in 7 tests at an average of 14. Is anyone out there going to say he bowled better than Kallis? If not, he is what I said, a useful second-change bowler. You really need to look at the game, not base your judgement on pre-formed opinions.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 28, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    @valvolux (post on July 28 2012, 15:53 PM GMT): does Australia even get any clouds? I think you'll find the conditions in Australia were absolutely tropical during the last ashes compared to what we're used to here in UK. I was just flicking through some old photo's in the archive, and there was barely anything of note but blue skies throughout, regardless of which team was batting. Raw pace did not win SA the first test here; neither Steyn nor Morkel were consistently fast... they just did enough to force mistakes! Fantastic batting by SA made England's bowlers on the same pitch in same conditions look pathetic.

  • valvolux on July 28, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    SA had the better of the bowling conditions? they had an awesome spell on day 2, then england had a session under the same conditions, the same amount of time it took SA to rip england a new one. England's form at home has been in part to great luck with conditions. Look at the indian series, look at the last series against the aussies - they batted under sunshine and bowled under clouds almost every single test match. Even in Australia they had the same luck with conditions. But you wouldnt ever find that mentioned in a post mortem of the match - it would simply be that England out bowled the opposition and that the opposition isn't going to be able to take 20 wickets. In the 4th innings it was still a flat deck with nothing but sunshine and England still capitualted. SA's bowlers just know how to make it talk when the conditions dont do it for them. Englands bowlers cant. As was seen in asia. They need raw pace (finn) or bounce (tremlett) in mundane conditions. not broad.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 28, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    @StaalBurgher (post on July 28 2012, 10:33 AM GMT): absolutely! If you look back through the years, the best test bowlers have not always been out-and-out pace. Granted fast bowlers can often be curtailed by injuries, doctoring of pitches, thicker/stronger bats that allow 'edges' to travel further... etc. etc. But I still think movement and strategy is the key to successful test bowling, and I don't know why people are so obsessed with pace alone. People can't seriously expect Philander to pick up a 5-fer EVERY time! In my opinion, if he goes wicketless, but still sends down 46 overs at econ. 2.348 (as in the first test), he is doing a great job!

  • StaalBurgher on July 28, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    I was one of the people that was worried about Philander's lack of pace at Test level when he was initially picked. But you cannot argue about his domestic record in the 4-day game over the last 3 years where he averaged less than 20. Subsequently however he has convinced me that a bowler can thrive at Test level if they can get enough movement even at lowish pace. Obviously he cannot sustain 15 avg forever and he did have plenty of bowling friendly surfaces for his first 7 Tests but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is a valuable bowler, as he has proved at domestic level over a long period of time. If you have a green wicket he is extremely dangerous with that nip he gets off the pitch. And he did get plenty of edges and beat the bat on many occasions. I think he did pretty well at the Oval.

  • SICHO on July 28, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    @landl47 VP outbowled the English bowlers only by himself. He managed 2 for 108 runs in 2 inninings, then the pack of English managed 2 for 637 in 1 innings. @Lermy you're just jealous and stubborn that VP has 53 wickets in 8 matches, can you give us proof about your crazy list of club bowlers like him.

  • on July 27, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    "England though could only manage two wickets, one of which was due to luck. Which was the worst bowling result at home in the entire recorded history of Test cricket" Absolutely brilliant! I trust that Vernon will keep up his good work - we cannot rely on two dismal England bowling performances in a row, so a stack of wickets will do us well!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 27, 2012, 15:11 GMT

    Philander is not supposed to be a fast bowler! He gets his wickets with nagging line-and-length and tests the patience of the batsmen like McGrath did wonderfully. Just because he didn't pick up wickets, doesn't make it a failure! Bowling is a team effort - if you can't be striking, be stingy and create pressure so the other bowlers can pick up wickets. I can't believe people are saying he 'failed in the first test!' Even Randy says he didn't fire... Huh?

  • on July 27, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    Any aspiring new ball bowler should watch VP. He lets the ball do the work; upright seam in the channel of uncertainty. They don't come better than VP. As for Lermy, just ask Steyn, Morkel and Tahir how VP adds to their effectiveness. I do not think that Steyn, Morkel and Tahir would want to bowl in tandem with a 'club' bowler as envisaged by Lermy.

  • SICHO on July 29, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    @landl47 Philander did beat the many times but the edges didn't carry as explained in this article. Judging by your comments you actually expect Philander to take 5-fers whenever he plays, which in reality is near impossible and not going to happen.

  • landl47 on July 29, 2012, 3:02 GMT

    Sorry, folks, but saying England bowled poorly (which they did) doesn't mean that Philander bowled well. He was tidy, but he didn't do much with the ball and didn't beat the bat often. He bowled a very good ball to get rid of Cook, but otherwise he didn't look like a bowler who had taken 51 wickets in 7 tests at an average of 14. Is anyone out there going to say he bowled better than Kallis? If not, he is what I said, a useful second-change bowler. You really need to look at the game, not base your judgement on pre-formed opinions.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 28, 2012, 17:11 GMT

    @valvolux (post on July 28 2012, 15:53 PM GMT): does Australia even get any clouds? I think you'll find the conditions in Australia were absolutely tropical during the last ashes compared to what we're used to here in UK. I was just flicking through some old photo's in the archive, and there was barely anything of note but blue skies throughout, regardless of which team was batting. Raw pace did not win SA the first test here; neither Steyn nor Morkel were consistently fast... they just did enough to force mistakes! Fantastic batting by SA made England's bowlers on the same pitch in same conditions look pathetic.

  • valvolux on July 28, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    SA had the better of the bowling conditions? they had an awesome spell on day 2, then england had a session under the same conditions, the same amount of time it took SA to rip england a new one. England's form at home has been in part to great luck with conditions. Look at the indian series, look at the last series against the aussies - they batted under sunshine and bowled under clouds almost every single test match. Even in Australia they had the same luck with conditions. But you wouldnt ever find that mentioned in a post mortem of the match - it would simply be that England out bowled the opposition and that the opposition isn't going to be able to take 20 wickets. In the 4th innings it was still a flat deck with nothing but sunshine and England still capitualted. SA's bowlers just know how to make it talk when the conditions dont do it for them. Englands bowlers cant. As was seen in asia. They need raw pace (finn) or bounce (tremlett) in mundane conditions. not broad.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 28, 2012, 15:43 GMT

    @StaalBurgher (post on July 28 2012, 10:33 AM GMT): absolutely! If you look back through the years, the best test bowlers have not always been out-and-out pace. Granted fast bowlers can often be curtailed by injuries, doctoring of pitches, thicker/stronger bats that allow 'edges' to travel further... etc. etc. But I still think movement and strategy is the key to successful test bowling, and I don't know why people are so obsessed with pace alone. People can't seriously expect Philander to pick up a 5-fer EVERY time! In my opinion, if he goes wicketless, but still sends down 46 overs at econ. 2.348 (as in the first test), he is doing a great job!

  • StaalBurgher on July 28, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    I was one of the people that was worried about Philander's lack of pace at Test level when he was initially picked. But you cannot argue about his domestic record in the 4-day game over the last 3 years where he averaged less than 20. Subsequently however he has convinced me that a bowler can thrive at Test level if they can get enough movement even at lowish pace. Obviously he cannot sustain 15 avg forever and he did have plenty of bowling friendly surfaces for his first 7 Tests but that doesn't take away from the fact that he is a valuable bowler, as he has proved at domestic level over a long period of time. If you have a green wicket he is extremely dangerous with that nip he gets off the pitch. And he did get plenty of edges and beat the bat on many occasions. I think he did pretty well at the Oval.

  • SICHO on July 28, 2012, 3:48 GMT

    @landl47 VP outbowled the English bowlers only by himself. He managed 2 for 108 runs in 2 inninings, then the pack of English managed 2 for 637 in 1 innings. @Lermy you're just jealous and stubborn that VP has 53 wickets in 8 matches, can you give us proof about your crazy list of club bowlers like him.

  • on July 27, 2012, 22:58 GMT

    "England though could only manage two wickets, one of which was due to luck. Which was the worst bowling result at home in the entire recorded history of Test cricket" Absolutely brilliant! I trust that Vernon will keep up his good work - we cannot rely on two dismal England bowling performances in a row, so a stack of wickets will do us well!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 27, 2012, 15:11 GMT

    Philander is not supposed to be a fast bowler! He gets his wickets with nagging line-and-length and tests the patience of the batsmen like McGrath did wonderfully. Just because he didn't pick up wickets, doesn't make it a failure! Bowling is a team effort - if you can't be striking, be stingy and create pressure so the other bowlers can pick up wickets. I can't believe people are saying he 'failed in the first test!' Even Randy says he didn't fire... Huh?

  • on July 27, 2012, 10:08 GMT

    Any aspiring new ball bowler should watch VP. He lets the ball do the work; upright seam in the channel of uncertainty. They don't come better than VP. As for Lermy, just ask Steyn, Morkel and Tahir how VP adds to their effectiveness. I do not think that Steyn, Morkel and Tahir would want to bowl in tandem with a 'club' bowler as envisaged by Lermy.

  • satish619chandar on July 27, 2012, 9:40 GMT

    @disco_bob : They had similar views when Indian bowlers struggled there.. May be, would have mentioned it had SA bowled like the way English did.. Either it is poor bowling by England or top class bowling by SA.. To mention that SA had better bowling conditions is just a excuse.. @landl47 : Philander didn't pick loads of wickets but kept it very tight for others to attack.. With absence of Harris, SA does need a guy to hold one end.. If conditions and pitch are to aid the English bowlers, Philander will be more dangerous..

  • Supa_SAFFA on July 27, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    Philander took out Cook for a duck in the 2nd innings. That scalp of England's 1st innings centurion was match-winning in itself.

  • disco_bob on July 27, 2012, 8:55 GMT

    Why do commentators bother to keep saying things like "...England toiled for two days on an unresponsive surface...". Why not say something like..."on a surface that required top class bowling to knock them over twice with a session to spare. England though could only manage two wickets, one of which was due to luck. Which was the worst bowling result at home in the entire recorded history of Test cricket"

  • proteaboytjie on July 27, 2012, 8:07 GMT

    @landl47 and @lermy, I think you should get your facts straight, VP is not the quickest of bowlers and it has been that way ever since he started but one thing for sure he does hit it in the right areas more often than not...swinging and seaming it on a moribund Oval wicket is proof that the boy can play, if and when he does fire things for the poms could get worse. remember pace is not everything. ENG argues that Finn would be better to play because he is quicker, if you dont get it in the right areas what is the point?

  • on July 27, 2012, 5:31 GMT

    Well landl47 should have just nothing, since he clearly hasnt watched VP before the Oval test

  • zenboomerang on July 27, 2012, 5:21 GMT

    @Handalf The-Bez... Agree & not sure where landl47 gets his ideas... Philander bowled 46 overs @2.35 for 2 wkts - not one Eng bowler achieved either & at a lower rate than both of Eng innings... If you aren't taking wkts, then you want to be bottling up the other end for your team mates & keeping the pressure on - which he did superbly in the 2nd innings... His 1st tour of Eng, so nerves may have been an issue getting started, but he settled in well the longer the game went...

  • on July 27, 2012, 3:43 GMT

    @Lermy: Pick one of those club bowlers you know so well, let him choose his own conditions and see if he gets 50 Test wickets at an average of 18. Mock all you like but Philander has had an excellent start to Test cricket. Whether he can keep it up or not is for time to tell but I am sure there are a number of Test players (past or present) who would give anything to have (or have had) stats like Philander's at a similar stage in their careers.

  • on July 27, 2012, 2:36 GMT

    When I read comments like this one by landl47 it makes me wonder if people like him/her have even watched Philander bowl. His pace during the 1st Test was exactly the same as it always is, hovering around 130kph. He moved the newish ball the same way he always does, and other than his very first spell, looked threatening with that ball, nipping it slightly both ways and inducing false shots and nicks. That's his game. It hasn't changed for years. It certainly wasn't any different during that match. If he'd had better carry he could've easily picked up 3 or 4 more wickets. Also, Firdose, while we're discussing movement/swing, let me just remind you (and your fellow writers) that studies showed fairly conclusively late last year that moisture has nothing to do with swing. Cloud cover is the likely culprit, not moisture. So, please, disabuse yourself of that mistaken belief.

  • SICHO on July 27, 2012, 2:32 GMT

    @Jonathan Cowley. Most people brushed him off after the warm up matches suggesting he'll struggle to adapt to English conditions. @landl47 you gotta be kidding me, you don't really expect VD to pick a five-fer in every match he's playing do you?

  • Lermy on July 27, 2012, 1:36 GMT

    Philander is so good he could play for Zimbabwe, maybe even open their bowling. I've seen plenty of club bowlers like him, the bubble had to burst eventually!!

  • on July 27, 2012, 0:50 GMT

    VP did bowl very well. Like he said, he did beat the bat on numerous occasions when I was watching!! The number of wickets a bowler gets does not always tell the story, as every serious cricket fan knows. While his pace is nothing to worry about, his movement off the pitch (away from the right hander) was very impressive!! Vernon was very unlucky not to have taken more wickets than he did!!

  • RandyOZ on July 26, 2012, 23:41 GMT

    It's a real worry for England that this guy didn't fire. If he fires in the next test imagine the destruction that will occur.

  • Jabulani on July 26, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    @yorkshirematt - I think you will find that the conditions on days 4 and 5 were the least conducive yet SA still got 10 wickets.

  • landl47 on July 26, 2012, 21:38 GMT

    Philander was actually one of the few disappointments for SA in the first test. His pace was medium at best, he didn't do much with the ball and if he thinks he bowled really well then when he doesn't bowl well he's going to go for a lot of runs. One tailender in the first innings and only one wicket, though it was a good one, in the second for a total of 108 runs isn't a great return. He didn't bowl as well as Kallis and really looked like a second-change bowler there to keep the runs down than someone who had taken 51 wickets in 7 tests. He's also been playing in Engand, so he wasn't undercooked. Steyn and Morkel posed a lot of problems which England couldn't handle, but VP wasn't much of a threat.

  • Chris_P on July 26, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    I like this guy's confidence. And he can back it up. I read a lot of posts asking where he was after day 1 & predicting doom & gloom for him. Where are they now? Looking forward to seeing him in action down under.

  • on July 26, 2012, 20:47 GMT

    "Talk before the series was that Philander would find England tough and perhaps even struggle" Bollocks and from who? The talk was his probing seaming style would be ideally suited to English conditions. And yes he did bowl very well. And SA got the same amount of movement in bone dry conditions with a fair blue sky on the final 2 days. Did you even watch the game Firdose?

  • yorkshirematt on July 26, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    @Shafaet 001 In fairness the SA bowlers did have the best of the bowling conditions but that does not excuse the way the english batsmen got themselves out.

  • maddy20 on July 26, 2012, 19:56 GMT

    @SurlyCynic Agreed but money does not entice everyone. Smith and Amla were playing for their country while KP and Trott were playing for.. I am not sure about that!

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 26, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    "The edges don't really carry to slip or to the keeper so we've got to try and get an lbw rather than get conventional nick offs..." - Um, surely it would be easier if the keeper and slips took a step or three closer!? If teams are scared of the odd ball getting through/over the slips when they're up close, just put a (deep) third man in.

  • Shafaet_001 on July 26, 2012, 18:33 GMT

    ""Although South Africa had the better of the bowling conditions, under cloudy skies and with enough moisture in the air for the ball to swing"" Typical english media!! Saf picked up 4 wickets very quickly in the same they amla and kallis punished english bowlers. Earlier england collapsed in the first innings but smith and amla was rock solid.

  • SurlyCynic on July 26, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    England's main problem was they hired Trott and KP instead of Kallis and Amla. Poor recruitment policy if you ask me. I'm sure their scouts will do better in future.

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  • SurlyCynic on July 26, 2012, 17:43 GMT

    England's main problem was they hired Trott and KP instead of Kallis and Amla. Poor recruitment policy if you ask me. I'm sure their scouts will do better in future.

  • Shafaet_001 on July 26, 2012, 18:33 GMT

    ""Although South Africa had the better of the bowling conditions, under cloudy skies and with enough moisture in the air for the ball to swing"" Typical english media!! Saf picked up 4 wickets very quickly in the same they amla and kallis punished english bowlers. Earlier england collapsed in the first innings but smith and amla was rock solid.

  • R_U_4_REAL_NICK on July 26, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    "The edges don't really carry to slip or to the keeper so we've got to try and get an lbw rather than get conventional nick offs..." - Um, surely it would be easier if the keeper and slips took a step or three closer!? If teams are scared of the odd ball getting through/over the slips when they're up close, just put a (deep) third man in.

  • maddy20 on July 26, 2012, 19:56 GMT

    @SurlyCynic Agreed but money does not entice everyone. Smith and Amla were playing for their country while KP and Trott were playing for.. I am not sure about that!

  • yorkshirematt on July 26, 2012, 20:27 GMT

    @Shafaet 001 In fairness the SA bowlers did have the best of the bowling conditions but that does not excuse the way the english batsmen got themselves out.

  • on July 26, 2012, 20:47 GMT

    "Talk before the series was that Philander would find England tough and perhaps even struggle" Bollocks and from who? The talk was his probing seaming style would be ideally suited to English conditions. And yes he did bowl very well. And SA got the same amount of movement in bone dry conditions with a fair blue sky on the final 2 days. Did you even watch the game Firdose?

  • Chris_P on July 26, 2012, 21:30 GMT

    I like this guy's confidence. And he can back it up. I read a lot of posts asking where he was after day 1 & predicting doom & gloom for him. Where are they now? Looking forward to seeing him in action down under.

  • landl47 on July 26, 2012, 21:38 GMT

    Philander was actually one of the few disappointments for SA in the first test. His pace was medium at best, he didn't do much with the ball and if he thinks he bowled really well then when he doesn't bowl well he's going to go for a lot of runs. One tailender in the first innings and only one wicket, though it was a good one, in the second for a total of 108 runs isn't a great return. He didn't bowl as well as Kallis and really looked like a second-change bowler there to keep the runs down than someone who had taken 51 wickets in 7 tests. He's also been playing in Engand, so he wasn't undercooked. Steyn and Morkel posed a lot of problems which England couldn't handle, but VP wasn't much of a threat.

  • Jabulani on July 26, 2012, 21:43 GMT

    @yorkshirematt - I think you will find that the conditions on days 4 and 5 were the least conducive yet SA still got 10 wickets.

  • RandyOZ on July 26, 2012, 23:41 GMT

    It's a real worry for England that this guy didn't fire. If he fires in the next test imagine the destruction that will occur.