South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day

Philander fights hard but falls short

Earlier in the series, Vernon Philander had had his willingness to work hard on the field questioned by the opposition. On day five in Cape Town, he showed them just how hard he can work, even with bat in hand

Firdose Moonda in Cape Town

March 5, 2014

Comments: 48 | Text size: A | A

Vernon Philander scored an unbeaten 51, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day, March 5, 2014
After a fourth Test fifty, Vernon Philander was left bruised and joyless © Getty Images
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Australia told Vernon Philander he could not bowl. So he showed them he could bat instead.

In harsher words than this, David Warner had all but called him a trundler who was not interested in performing on tracks that did not offer anything. The Australian opener suggested Philander opted out of the 2012 Adelaide Test because of the placid pitch. In hindsight, he may have been grateful Philander didn't play then, now that he has seen what dealing with him, AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis can be like.

When Philander's turn to bat arrived, neither de Villiers nor du Plessis, the two men who had kept Australia at bay in Adelaide and India out at the Wanderers, was still there. JP Duminy, who gave Australia major headaches in Perth and Melbourne in 2008-09 and more recently in Port Elizabeth, was around. There was more than a session left in the day, 36.5 overs, and only three wickets. Australia's "pack of dogs", as du Plessis called them, were sniffing blood.

Philander gave them nothing at first. His defences were strong but they would already have known that. Philander was the last man standing in Centurion and two of his three other Test half-centuries have come in pressure situations. Australia's homework would have told them all about his 61 at Lord's and 59 against India at the Wanderers. They would also have known about his 3,000 first-class runs and that he was initially as a genuine allrounder.

They might have laughed at the last of those when 11 balls into his innings he top-edged Mitchell Johnson over Brad Haddin's head for six. Allrounder or not, he would have to deal with Australia's spearhead, bowling quickly, bowling nastily and bowling better than most bowling he has had to face before.

The very next ball he showed he could. Johnson pitched it up. Philander kept it out. The ball after that, Johnson held it back a touch, Philander pushed it through mid-off and secured his post-tea spot at the crease.

Once he occupied it, he received a welcome that would have rattled most batsmen. Ryan Harris served up a ball that jagged back into him. Instinctively, he shouldered arms. It was a good decision but for a split-second it also seemed a brave decision. Harris may have thought he was getting closer but Philander went on to push him further away.

He ducked under the short balls, he defended solidly, he pushed the ones he could into gaps, he didn't panic when he got beaten. Then he got hit. James Pattinson struck him in the ribs. Philander did not want to show pain but it must have a stung and he rubbed the area. Two balls later, another one swung past his inside edge. Pattinson, hands on head, must have thought he was getting closer. Philander tried to push him further away. He got one away through the covers for four. That over had not caused any damage until Pattinson was incorrectly deemed to have overstepped.

The extra ball was a beamer and it found Philander's glove. The bat went one way, his body went the other and the hurt went straight into his right hand. He could not hide the pain. Philander waited for the physiotherapist and grimaced as the magic spray was generously applied.

Like his now-former captain Graeme Smith, Philander put the sting to one side and carried on. When he defended the next ball, the few people who'd managed to get to Newlands sounded like a full house. There was still 150 balls to go.

Some of those would be against Johnson. One of those Philander would pull through midwicket. He may as well have just said, "I'm not going anywhere." Or he may as well have told JP Duminy that. Just as South Africa were starting to see safety, Duminy picked the wrong shot and played it to where Clarke had put a fielder in the right position. When he realised he'd been caught at leg-slip, Duminy threw his head back in disappointment. Philander did the same.

There was only the tail to go and Philander had to marshall it. In Steyn, he had the man he'd batted with at the Wanderers just three months ago to save a game. Then, they refused runs because they did not want to risk losing. This time they refused them because they did not have to take them. Steyn's hamstring would have been a consideration as well, and so each of them stayed at their end and held the line.

Philander almost let go when beaten by a Johnson delivery that went through everyone, including Haddin. Johnson came closer, Philander pushed him further. Then Johnson came as close as anyone would get to Philander. A snorter which seemed to have hit glove and then shoulder was caught at short leg. Philander got down on his haunches. He was hurt. But he knew he was not out.

He called for the review and and many minutes passed. He received more treatment. The replays showed his hand was off the bat when the ball kissed the glove. Decision overturned. Fight. Steyn had words with one of the Australians. Clarke intervened. The umpires got involved. The last hour had begun.

On they went. Philander and Steyn. The last half an hour. An lbw shout against Philander that was obviously missing leg was reviewed. The pressure built. Almost into the last 15 minutes. Harris was handed the ball.

Steyn knew what he had to do but when the yorker came, he could not do it. The off bail was off. Philander was one team-mate away from defeat.

Morne Morkel defended the first ball but could do nothing against the second. Full, fast and beating the inside edge, he was bowled by the man on one leg. Morkel was planted to his end in disbelief. Philander, at the opposite end, had adopted exactly the same position. Only one of them knew there was absolutely no more he could have done to save this game. It was not Morkel.

Seconds passed and neither of them moved. They left the swirling to Australia, who galloped about the field, whooping. Their joy. South Africa's despair. Frozen in that moment.

Philander broke the ice. He trudged, helmet and bat in one hand, broken heart in the other. He used that hand to reach out to Morkel and offer a consolatory pat on the arm. They walked off together. It was over.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Shaggy076 on (March 8, 2014, 11:40 GMT)

Thosar, At least try and get some accuracy in your posts to make yourself look credible. Trying to help you at least get a shred of credibility but Philander cannot be an overrated Aus bowler because he is SOuth African. Now with you completely getting this fact wrong I dont think anyone is going to worry about what else you write.

Posted by   on (March 8, 2014, 9:50 GMT)

Philander needs to be more attacking bowler. But I am happy with his batting. It is surprising that Morne Morkel has forgotten how to bat.

Posted by   on (March 7, 2014, 3:05 GMT)

Beautiful piece of cricket writing. Long live excellent cricket journalism!!

Posted by cricketcarl on (March 7, 2014, 2:41 GMT)

personally, i think saf suffered post traumatic stress disorder after the first test, johnson created a warzone that has knocked the saf ship off course, hope they call fill the hole in the hull and i think their sail has a few rips in it. i only heard the first test on the radio, im an aust fan, and im still shaking, so what was warnie doin about the place during the third test?

Posted by thozar on (March 7, 2014, 2:41 GMT)

@Hussain Kurawadwala, "Ryan Harris is a hero" Did he act in some Bollywood movie or what? If he is a real hero, why can't he play in India and prove himself once? "I am an Indian", sure you are. We Indians always are over-appreciative of the opposition.

@Webba84, bowling tail-enders in helpful conditions is no big deal. I don't know how much trouble he has with his body but I think he knows that he will never succeed in Indian conditions and that is why he hasn't toured India. Did your Warner give the same benefit of doubt to Philander? No double standards please. Harris is another over-rated Oz cricketer like Philander.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 17:37 GMT)

WarVdm: You are wrong mate, morkel was not toothless, he have hit clarke, johnson and other players multiple times. But what he did wrong was he didn't used full delivery as follow up. But you are spot on about morkel's batting.

Posted by criccraze on (March 6, 2014, 16:51 GMT)

Warner was obviously correct when he said that VP can't bowl on pitches offering no assistance. A bit like R Jadeja/Ashwin who can play the role of a bowlers in suitable pitches and batsman on placid ones. However Aus and especially Warner has again proved that they can walk the talk. A lot of people are going to say that because of Steyn's injury SA lost the match, however opinions were not so forthcoming when the same thing had happened with Aus in Adelaide. I have not seen a single article where the role of Pattinson's injury has been mentioned as a criteria for the drawn test and the subsequent loss. Just like all other times the BEST team won, so stop praising the Saffas who could not win/draw a home series(the 1st team to have this in the last 2 yrs).

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 15:56 GMT)

Vernon has dragged his length back or rather the ball isnt spiting as it used to which makes his length appear touch short.He thinks too much of himself but does have a fair ability with bat as his first appearance in SA outfit was an allrounder in 2007.Frankly I think the next captain should demand more from Vernon.He should bowl long spells and allow Morkel and Steyn to rotate.Not meaning here he should hold an end , but rather should bowl 7-8 over spells tight incisve ,testing and teasing batsmen.And SA need a spinner asap.Simon Harmer looks alright and should definitely play and Phangiso can do the job in limited overs.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 13:58 GMT)

A very impressive test with the bat from him but I think the all rounder tag is a bit optimistic myself. He is more like Johnson and Pattinson, a very handy 8 or 9 batsman who will average in the 20s.

Posted by Imad_K on (March 6, 2014, 13:19 GMT)

People love to come out with excuses. Yup hats off to Philander - excellent cricketer. He showed more guts when batting then most of the other SA batsmen. Guts when it mattered - when you are playing against the best - and let's be honest apart from SA and Australia there aren't any other teams whose quick bowlers really compare. With regards to his bowling and the records - please tell me how many wickets has he taken against teams like Australia and England? Let's also judge that against the top batting teams - not teams like India playing outside of the sub-continent or NZ. Additionally one factor people forget is that he is bowling with people like Steyn and Morkel - bowlers who would have played in any era and could probably be named up there amongst a great pair of bowlers. Therefore, when the opposition face SA which of these bowlers are they likely to go after and take risks leading to their dismissals. Also, people like Steyn take wickets in all conditions.

Posted by dsig3 on (March 6, 2014, 12:31 GMT)

I like Vernon. He bowled ok against us but didn't really get the surface he needs to be really effective. He is a bit different from morkel and steyn and gives the attack a different dimension. He has a great record and can obviously bat. He has more shots than faf and is going to help you win more games. My advice is ditch faf keep this guy happy.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 11:58 GMT)

@Thozar Ryan Harris is a hero .I am an Indian and he was in KXIP in the IPL.I know test and IPL are different things but boy the best deliveries by a pace bowler that I have ever seen was by him on flat tracks of India.He is a hero .Pls research about players before talking about them.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 11:51 GMT)

Philander has been off color recently but will pick up in the near future I think .Its not easy to bowl well all the time and certainly not possible. For me he could be a no 7 batsman .He has scored more than JP Duminy in recent times whenever he has been required to bat. Yeah he won't be a genuine allrounder but could just be like someone like Pollock albeit for a much shorter time. Then they can get in that extra bowler who IMO has to be a spinner .Its a shame that SA can do everything but not produce 1 spinner .Of course its amazing that they have been no1 for a long time despite that but its because of steyn morkel AB Amla Smith Kallis and more recently philander .Now two are gone soon steyn will be too .Yes if philander is played at 7 then apart from morkel and steyn they have a chance of playing a spinner and a third seamer. They should try Hendricks or De Lange (who had an awesome debut but disappeared )

Posted by WarVdm on (March 6, 2014, 11:32 GMT)

Vernon may have not been at his best this series, but a bowler with over 100 wickets and an average under 20 should always be cut some slack. He just has to work on his inswingers (his success has been due to mixing inward and outward movement, throughout the series he could only swing them away, got too predictable). He will get "Michelles" again.

As for Morkel, this was probably his worst Test in years. He is too "nice" when bowling, even when he bowls bouncers, he sends them well over the batsmen's head, not into the rib cage or shoulders, which is where a wicket is more likely to come from. He tried hard, but was absolutely toothless. As for his batting it just gets worse. Several years ago he could bat a bit, contribute towards the team scoreing an extra 30-40 runs by hang around and scoreing a few boundaries. Now, he is a walking wicket that has trouble lasting more than half a dozen deliveries. His batting, once on par with Steyn's, is now more on par with Chris Martin's...

Posted by Protears on (March 6, 2014, 9:39 GMT)

I do like the comments on Vernon's ability, he has played Australia, England, Pakistan, India, New Zealand, played in Australia, England, UAE, South Africa and New Zealand has amassed 112 wickets at 20 and a batting avarage tipping on close to 30 because he is an average player. He had an off series partly due to a shoulder injury prior to the series which truncated preparations along with the curtailed India tour I would say was in some part responsible for some of his wayward bowling notably in Cape Town.

As a batsmen Vern is very much a Shaun Pollock mould player and a fine one at it. I can see him becoming more of a holding bowler particularly if we can nurture a Simon Harmer like spinner into the team. His bowling is similar to Abbott and Beuren Hendricks. On his day he is devastating.

Posted by StarveTheLizard on (March 6, 2014, 9:19 GMT)

A part of Philander might have been playing for his place. Apart from this low-scoring rearguard action his stats were unimpressive. He might be good for these but how does he contribute when South Africa want to actually win a game?

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 6, 2014, 9:17 GMT)

@ Samdanh: re the Indian fans. They can expect not even the slightest bit of mercy from me. I'm done with them. Not the good ones though, and there are a few. The rest, they can cop what they deserve.

Posted by Samdanh on (March 6, 2014, 8:05 GMT)

SA and Aus Fans: Let me reiterate my request. Please continue to ignore the adverse rants, whimper and squeals coming from most fans from India. Let us show some sympathy. They have been in never ending pain over the severe beating their team has been receving ever since they stepped on overseas tours from Dec 2013.

Posted by Samdanh on (March 6, 2014, 7:55 GMT)

Philander is so good that he could become the next Kallis. SA has very good bench strength of fast bowlers and fighting batsmen. They are likely to stay no.1 if they could manage to groom a back up of batsmen who could play spin and pace equally well and groom couple of spinners who could be handy when they travel to subcontinent, especially when playing in India where pitches are made to aid spin not from day one but ball one, especially when they see opposition does not have quality spinners

Posted by Brett_Johnson on (March 6, 2014, 7:44 GMT)

He did ok with the bat but he proved Warner right with the ball. Where was he in the second innings? There was a 40 over gap on day 4 where he didn't bowl, even the injured Steyn had a go but Vernon hid away from the onslaught.

His batting, although useful, was not much better than some others. The pitch was flat and when he came to the crease he was facing bowlers on their last legs. Abbott did a better job given the situation he went to the crease and Steyn hung around admirably with a dodgy hamstring.

Considering you went to the effort of writing a whole article about Vernon i'd say his innings was overrated. And there was no way that DRS decision should have been overturned - anyone who thinks it should have doesn't know what 'conclusive' means.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 6, 2014, 7:29 GMT)

@ CowichanGodfather: re Philander being the new best all-rounder. If that ever happens then all I can say is the cricket world is in desperate need of a true all-rounder. .. Jason Gillespie scored a Test double century, but there's no way anyone could call him an all-rounder. Mitchell Johnson can score heavily at times. Is he an all-rounder? No, not in this lifetime. .. philander will be lucky to still be playing Test cricket in 2 years time unless he sorts his bowling out.

Posted by Webba84 on (March 6, 2014, 6:46 GMT)

@Lawton Ratnam Say rather that Warner is brutal, clinical and crass. You couldnt use those adjectives to describe Rhino. Or Lyon. Or many others on the team.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 6, 2014, 6:43 GMT)

@ Selfishkar: "Can believe winner of this series was whitewashed 0-4 when the toured India". Can you believe the team that won here beat India 4-0 in Aus. and caused the retirement of a couple of India's greatest ever players.

Posted by RJHB on (March 6, 2014, 6:28 GMT)

Hmmm yeah he played ok, some good shots, and fortune favoured his bravery cos he was a millimetre from being bowled, WAS out caught til a guess ruled he wasn't, and swung the bat with less regard for the situation than this article may indicate. He's a fine bowler, but not with the best all time average and the no.1 ranking! Lol He gets found out a bit against Australia, even with their average but improving batting.

Posted by Nattusbs on (March 6, 2014, 6:25 GMT)

I have always enjoyed Vernon Philander's bowling since his Test debut. However, in this series, I was surprised that he consistently bowled short of good length - it appeared there was something wrong. I am sure that the bowling coach and VP will be looking at video's of this series and that of earlier ones. If I recall correctly, he had the ability to pitch the bowl at good length right on off-stump and move it either way, ever so slightly to catch the edge or hit the stumps. It is well known that fast bowlers work in pairs or even in packs! They inspire each other. With Steyn injured, there was something missing although Morkel & Abbott were there - maybe, it was the absence of Kallis who had the ability to break partnerships to allow the genuine fast bowlers run through the line-up.

Surprising that de Kock was not baptized against (a weak) Indian bowling attack to get his feet wet for the Aussies. He could replace AB as 'keeper eventually when the latter takes over the captaincy.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 6:05 GMT)

The constant mouthing by Warner, the pack of dogs sending off of Du-Plesis and the ugly confrontation with the umpires reminds of Mike Tyson. The Australians are, brutal, clinical and crass

Posted by Romanticstud on (March 6, 2014, 5:53 GMT)

To cap the determination, Vernon had the best average of the South African batsmen of 67.5 ... Although he did not bowl badly ... the pitch was rather flat for most of the five days ... Australia, however, managed to get the ball to reverse in South Africa's first innings and put paid to their chances of winning the game ... It seems like Vernon is proving that he is a better all-rounder than people have given him credit for.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 6, 2014, 5:42 GMT)

@ TheBigBoodha: re Warner sledging the bowler. I nearly spilled my coffee on the keyboard when I read your post. All I can do is shake my head and chuckle a bit. There's a method to Warner's madness. At first I thought he had Taurets syndrome but the more I think about it the more I'm starting to think that maybe Warner is systematically setting about destroying Philanders bowling career. And, it's working.

Posted by Chris_P on (March 6, 2014, 5:37 GMT)

@Selfishkar. So what's your point? It's not even the same team or coach! Every team has gotten whitewashed at some point pal. Your team hasn't won on the road for 14 matches and you were #2!! What's your point anyway. It would only ever be a point if every series was in India. You know India has NEVER won a series in either Australia or South Africa or in Sri Lanka since 1995 & they held #1 spot! Grow up...

Posted by Akhter786 on (March 6, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

It would have been much better for SA if he bowled even as half good as he was for sometime. His pathetic bowling form notwithstanding, he is still a great asset to team giving how good he can bat in adverse conditions. Slack of partner ships at the top the order hurt SA more than anything, after the dismal show by bowlers in the absence of Steyn. It is very much clear now that if Steyn is not performing, the whole bowling does not perform at all. What is wrong with Morkel, he can't get wickets at all.

South africa address these issues as soon as possible if they want to stretch their run being at the top.

Posted by Akhter786 on (March 6, 2014, 5:16 GMT)

No doubt it was a gritty fightback. But i want to ask why is it always like that they have to fight it out to not loose a match. In recent 3 series it has almost become a norm for SA Why can not play it with so guts right from the word go. Why are they slow starterseven aafter being number one for quite sometime now?

With Kallis and Smith gone from the team , it is going to be a bumpy road ahead and they donot play test cricket so often as we.. Get ready for a prolonged Aussie dominance once again if SA doesnot find ways to put right what is really wrong with them.

Posted by Selfishkar on (March 6, 2014, 3:56 GMT)

Can believe winner of this series was whitewashed 0-4 when the toured India

Posted by Webba84 on (March 6, 2014, 3:42 GMT)

@thozar Are you serious mate? Have you got any idea how much trouble Ryan Harris has had from his body? Did you even see what he did today? How you can possibly say that a guy without a knee who learned a new way to run so he could bowl with a hip that was causing excruciating pain, to have bowled 14 overs more than any physio or doctor said he would be able to, and you say he only plays in conditions that suit him? It is well, well, known and incredibly obvious that the Rhino heart plays every chance he gets. Please stop slandering people.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (March 6, 2014, 3:28 GMT)

cont. re-VP ,despite so called 'limitations' has stats-to be admired.He's found self a skill/method to success,therein lies his class.Look at his batting for ref.-grit,character.Same with ball.For all his 'talent'/'that' Ponting spell look wheres Ishant.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 3:09 GMT)

The article failed to mention that Philander was not out in the first innings as well. Of course he is not as good a bowler as his average indicates, but he is clearly a pretty good bowler who is a strong number 8 batsman - maybe even 7. As such, he would be an asset to any international side.

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (March 6, 2014, 3:06 GMT)

@Thozar-Well its good to give cr. where-Vern deserves some.For sure-if stats are ignored-he looks just another honest m/p seamer,the 'stock' most teams have-doesn't bowl @150,aura of a Lee/Mcgra or X-fact of Steyn/Mitch.But now lets look to his stats.

Posted by keralite on (March 6, 2014, 2:55 GMT)

@Thozar Harris did play in Sri Lanka and did well there. It is injury that kept him out of the team not his fear of bowling in unhelpful tracks. If he wanted to play in helpful tracks only he would have atleast played all the tests in Australia he missed out due to injury. If Philander had done his primary job then he would not have had to bat(tle) this long.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (March 6, 2014, 2:46 GMT)

Still not sure what's going on with Philander. Conditions weren't ideal for him this test - and most of the series. But why was he hardly sighted with the ball for long periods? Kind of suggests maybe Warner was onto something.

Warner was giving him a little verbal stick while Warner was batting for the 145. He was overheard laughing about "125 Ks an hour" after Philander bounced him.

Posted by Tumbarumbar on (March 6, 2014, 2:46 GMT)

From all of the performances in this game Firsose the one you have selected to write about is Vernon Philander's batting? The night watchman was surely worthy of more praise given the balls he absorbed against a fresh attack.

Posted by dunger.bob on (March 5, 2014, 23:48 GMT)

Yes, he's certainly a barnacle when it comes to batting. Now, if he just learn how to bowl he might be a handy player. .. lol, just kidding. Obviously he can bowl as well.

Posted by disco_bob on (March 5, 2014, 22:20 GMT)

Fortunately Philander, did not bowl as well as he batted or Australia may not be celebrating this historic win. 1 wicket for 116 runs in 27 overs in the first innings and then, ignominiously, being batted out of the attack after leaking 42 runs in 6 overs are the figures of a medium pace part time dibbly dobbler. His current figures will soon come tumbling down.

There may be some truth to Warner's suggestion that after the Perth debacle Phil was considered to much of a risk to play in Adelaide because to be removed completely from the attack in a must win Test is remarkable considering he's rated as the no. 1 bowler in the world.

Posted by thozar on (March 5, 2014, 21:57 GMT)

Although I don't always agree with David Warner, I agree with him on his assessment of Philander. Philander is an average bowler who could only perform on helpful tracks. I cannot wait to see this guy get thrashed to oblivion if (and that is a big if) and when he tours India. But, what Warner forgets is that there is one other bowler in his own team who is also more interested in protecting his average and refusing to tour countries where the pitches would offer him less assistance. And that bowler is Ryan Harris.

Although I don't support Oz, I am happy that RSA lost. Even though some of their players like ABDV are nice and humble blokes, there are some guys like Philander who are also very arrogant. So, it serves them right to lose a series.

Posted by creebo777 on (March 5, 2014, 21:27 GMT)

Maybe we should use philander as an all rounder

Posted by Winsome on (March 5, 2014, 20:55 GMT)

It is odd that he is protected from bowling on pitches that do not suit him. He'll always be in the top 10 with that preferred treatment. At least, he played some shots today, I've never seen such a shotless bunch. Damn fine fight from the Saffers.

Posted by MyMumsSon on (March 5, 2014, 20:16 GMT)

Thank you to both teams. Amazing. Today's all-day agony was just exquisite.

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 20:03 GMT)

Loved your article, Moonda!!! Very poetic!!! Especially the last couple paragraphs.

As an Aussie congrats to my team for winning but also to S.A for their never say die attitude. I'd rather play S.A any day even if it means watching them dead-bat every ball than flogging a spineless England in a session.

Credit to you Moonda for your excellent work.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (March 5, 2014, 19:50 GMT)

Well done Australia, deserved winners. Great series to watch. As an SA supporter I'm obviously disappointed with the performance this test but at least they showed some fight today. Close to saving it but can't argue with the result.

For my fellow SA supporters who are mentioning things like injured bowlers, reverse swing after 18 overs, bowling conditions - we didn't enjoy it when Aus fans brought up stuff like this after the 2012 series or the PE test so let's not go there.

Congrats again to Aus on a hard-fought series which was a good advert for test cricket.

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