All-round Philander shines for South Africa
South Africa 300 (Philander 58*, Hendricks 3-52) lead South African Composite XI 24 for 3 (de Kock 21*, Peterson 2-0) by 276 runs
South Africa may end up looking neither to Wayne Parnell nor Ryan McLaren as their all-round solution in the future because Vernon Philander could provide the selectors with an alternative. Philander top-scored with 58 on the first of the three-day tour match in preparation for the upcoming Australia series in which the South African shadow Test team, sans AB de Villiers, experienced top-order struggles.
De Villiers was not included in either XI because he is yet to fully recover from hand surgery, but he was at the Wanderers. He was put through some fielding drills and is expected to be fit for the first Test next week. His absence, nonetheless, was obvious in the batting department as the top order struggled in tricky conditions.
With overcloud and the left-arm angle of Beuran Hendricks, South Africa would have relished the challenge, but not the outcome. Graeme Smith would have been the first man out when he edged McLaren to second slip, but the bowler had overstepped.
The pressure did not ease there though as Hendricks was replaced by fellow southpaw Wayne Parnell. The angle eventually had the better of the top order with the first four wickets all falling to the left-handers. Alviro Petersen played on to his stumps, Smith was caught at backward point and Hashim Amla snaffled behind. The South African XI were 51 for 3 shortly after the first hour was complete, and things looked very shaky.
Faf du Plessis was stationed at No.4, an indication he will bat there in the Tests, and opened his scoring with a couple of crisp drives. Du Plessis and JP Duminy put on the first partnership of substance as their 59-run stand saw them take advantage of an inconsistent Parnell, who despite his pace, was wayward. However, Duminy eventually top-edged to Dean Elgar at third slip when on 36.
Thami Tsolekile, playing in de Villiers place, became the first victim of offspinner Simon Harmer, who found substantial turn throughout the day. Tsolekile was bowled by a delivery that turned into him, to put the South African XI back into a tricky position at 122 for 5.
Robin Peterson scored quick runs, reverse-sweeping Harmer for three boundaries in the same over, including two sixes, but the bowler had the last laugh. Peterson was enjoying his hit out so much, he ended up scooping one straight to Harmer at mid-on to give the tireless McLaren some reward.
Du Plessis also fell to a silly shot, smashing Harmer straight to be caught by the bowler and it was up to the lower order to paper over any concerns that may have grown. Dale Steyn and Philander, who last batted together at this ground in the Test against India, made batting look simple as the clouds cleared and the sun peeped through.
The pair played with relative freedom and punished Parnell and Harmer for anything too full or wide. After Steyn was dismissed, Philander and Rory Kleinveldt put on the highest partnership of the innings. Their 62-run stand was carefree and showed their potential to become lower-order all-rounders in the Test side.
With neither Parnell nor McLaren making themselves a clear candidate for that role, the batting of Philander and Kleinveldt would have been an aspect the selectors have made note of.
The South African XI's bowlers fared better than their batsmen. Philander claimed the first wicket when Reeze Hendricks was out lbw. The Peterson-Harmer romance continued when Harmer was sent in as a nightwatchman. He offered Peterson a return catch in his first over, which he duly pulled off, diving to his right.
Peterson also had Elgar's scalp to his name after the batsman hit a full toss in the air to short mid-wicket, where du Plessis pulled of a stunner. Quinton de Kock too should have walked back on 19, but Morkel put down a simple return catch, as the South African Composite XI ended the day precariously placed at 24 for 3.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent