South Africa in England 2012 July 26, 2012

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sello 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.

  • John 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.

  • Nicholas 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.

  • Justin 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.

  • Nicholas 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!

  • Gerald 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.

  • Sello 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.

  • Dummy4 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!

  • Nicholas 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?

  • Dummy4 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.

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