Philander keen to stay on upward curve
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