South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 12, 2012

Philander prepares for tougher examination


More than Newlands, the Wanderers or SuperSport Park, the pitch at the University Oval in Dunedin is the surface Vernon Philander should remember best. It is the only one on which he has not taken a five-wicket haul in an innings and, by implication, has provided him with his biggest challenge so far.

Philander is in the fledgling stages of a career that looks set to take off with all the glory of an eagle in full flight and he cannot be expected to take a five-for every time he walks on to a cricket field. What he can expect is for things to get tougher after his dream start, and Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor and to a lesser extent Trent Boult, gave him a glimpse of what that might look like.

With New Zealand nine down going into the third morning, Philander was handed the ball, a gesture that could be seen as him being given the opportunity for another five-for. Instead, he dished up five juicy length balls in succession to Boult who responded by planting them over the boundary rope. Perhaps what made it more insulting was that it was another bowler who was giving Philander the treatment.

In the second innings, it was a more intense battle against New Zealand's two set batsmen. Philander was properly tested. Although he still kept his usual line outside the off stump and got occasional movement away from the batsmen, he did not find the edge. He was forced to try different things on an unresponsive pitch, adjust his gameplans and out-think the opposition rather than just outplay them and he admitted it gave him a few more things to ponder.

"Your biggest test is always away from home," Philander said. "I've had the luxury of playing at home in my first few games so it's a bit of a mental test having to come here and perform as well as I have at home."

The New Zealand tour is Philander's first Test series outside South Africa and although he maintained that his line will probably work anywhere in the world, he said his lengths have had to change. "It's a touch slower than what we have back home .So I've got to bowl it slightly shorter than what I would do at home," he said.

The Seddon Park pitch in Hamilton is expected to be similar to the one the teams played on in Dunedin and, if anything, it will be drier and more difficult for the rest of the seamers. The one thing on offer may be movement and if it's there, Philander is convinced he can make it work for him. "If there is movement, I am probably the one bowler that will exploit it," he said. "I always back myself to get something out of the wicket and with the new ball it's a big plus for me [to try and do that]."

His opening partner, Dale Steyn, has not had the same success of late. Steyn took two wickets in the Test but it has become a talking point that he has not had a five-for in an innings where he has bowled with Philander, something that may be tough if Philander keeps taking all the available wickets. While analysts have started to discuss whether Steyn is bowling within himself, Philander does not believe there is anything to be concerned about. "Dale is a wonderful bowler and bowlers always go through patches like that sometimes," he said. "It's going to take one spell to get him back."

Kruger van Wyk said he expected as much from the man he played against in first-class cricket in South Africa at least six years ago, before moving to New Zealand and is enjoying facing him again.

"There are not too many weak links in the South African side. Philander has been a top performer in first-class cricket for as long as I can remember, even when I was back there," he said. "They ask a lot of questions of you as a batter so you have to be on top of your game. But we are up for that challenge, we look forward to playing some good sides and you want to be tested against good players. It will be great to face them again."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sam` on March 15, 2012, 4:25 GMT

    As of this moment, Dale Steyn has taken 25 wickets at 18.28 in partnership with Vernon Philander.

    I think it is pretty safe to say he's coping okay with Philander's presence alongside him wouldn't you say?

  • Dummy4 on March 14, 2012, 1:09 GMT

    Accuracy is sometimes more important... speed is not everything .. much like with batting, shot execution is more important than the strength in the shot

  • Randolph on March 13, 2012, 13:53 GMT

    @Nutcutlet - Australia isn't playing South Africa again this summer.

  • Chris on March 13, 2012, 10:49 GMT

    As an Aussie supporter, the SA v England series for me is the most mouthwatering contest in a long time. I can't wait to see Steyn and Philander attacking Cook and Trott and then proceeding to watch Broad, Finn, Tremlett, Bresnan, Anderson & Swann trying to work out how to get Amla and the colossus Kallis out.

    For me; Steyn, Philander, Pattinson, Harris, Broad, Finn, Tremlett, P.Kumar and Bracewell are currently the best fast bowlers in the world whilst I see Kallis and Trott as the best two batsmen in the world, with Cook and Amla etc also being exceptional talent. Kallis must surely be one of the all time great batsmen. I think this will be SA's time, they have enough great players to become the no.1 and they should have at least a year or two at the top if not longer. In my mind, they've been the world no.1 for the past 3 years and that was without Philander.

  • Cliffontong on March 13, 2012, 5:32 GMT

    Is it just me or does Philander remind any of you of Asif? Medium to medium fast, nothing more, bowls a great line and length, moves the ball about. Ok he looks about 20 kgs heavier and doesn't have that whippy action Asif has/had but I see very similar approaches to bowling.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2012, 4:23 GMT

    bowlers like these when come to indian subcontinent r part of there worst series..hahha

  • gokul on March 13, 2012, 4:12 GMT

    He is as good as McGrath. He completes their pace attack.The Saffer's pace attack looks really good. They'll beat England..

  • Sam` on March 13, 2012, 3:13 GMT

    Rahulcricket007, I would like to see how many runs any Indian outside Dravid and Tendulkar will make when they enter lively non-Indian tracks.

  • sowmi on March 13, 2012, 2:06 GMT

    philander is the deadliest bowler to enter the scene in international cricket. Man every time he enters the field he takes a five for. Even though he doesn't bowl at 140+ he has an excellent line and length which is all that's necessary. Some of the best bowlers have been medium pace. eg Mcgrath and pollock. Also he has less chances of burning out and succumbing to injuries. A Mcgrath in the making.

  • Dummy4 on March 13, 2012, 1:25 GMT

    Quicks like McGrath & Steyn did well in Subcontinent which makes them great.. Philander has to prove himself in the Subcontinent first..

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