SA v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 2nd day December 19, 2013

Hurting Philander eases South Africa's pain

Vernon Philander was suffering from a toothache last night but he was incisive with the ball, before shoring up a South Africa collapse with a defiant innings

'Philander ran in with purpose today'

Close to midnight after the first day of the Test, something was bothering Vernon Philander. "Toothache … you are starting to annoy the shit out of me now," he tweeted as the hour approached. "24 hour dentist, where are you? Sandton."

By the morning, Philander was ready to take his irritation out on someone. It showed in the first ball he delivered: short, outside off, seaming in a touch and drawing a careful push from Ajinkya Rahane. It showed even more the next delivery, which reared up and jagged away, forcing Rahane to play. It set the tone - as Allan Donald had asked his quicks to do - for the morning.

With a covering of cloud, moisture heavy in the air and a pain in his tooth, Philander beat MS Dhoni's bat, squared him up, and attacked the stumps more than any of the South African bowlers had on the first day. Although he was not the man who claimed the Indian captain's wicket, his rewards rolled in after that.

Rahane was dismissed in typical Philander fashion - poking at one outside off stump that nipped away at the last second. Zaheer Khan was comically caught on the back foot as he tried to do something that resembled playing at one that wobbled in the densely damp air. Ishant Sharma's defences were breached by a ball that was perfectly directed at the top of off stump.

All three dismissals paid homage to the consistency of Philander's bowling, the subtlety of movement he produces and the uncertainty he creates in batsmen's minds. After dismissing Ishant, Philander stood one wicket away from collecting his 100th Test scalp. But for a Morne Morkel no-ball in the over that followed, he would have had a chance to reach the landmark, but the extra delivery Morkel bowled accounted for India's last batsman.

Philander still has the second innings and the smart money will be on him to claim his 100th. If he gets there, he will become the fastest South African to the landmark, reaching it in 19 Tests, one fewer than Dale Steyn.

Philander is already the joint second-fastest to 50 Test wickets. The rate at which he has racked up those numbers could easily conjure up an image of a snarling speedster who juggles the ball as he delivers it. Philander is not that. He succeeds through consistency. The first day of this Test aside, he rarely offers width or bowls what batsmen may call a 'hit-me' delivery. He is tireless in his ability to maintain a line on or just outside off and a good length. He may sometimes have a few things to say but nothing as hostile as his opening partner Steyn.

His success has literally been achieved through hard work and the 100th wicket will be another illustration of that. Before he gets there, Philander will concentrate on batting South Africa towards safety, which he has already set about doing. He regards himself as a genuine allrounder, and with two first-class hundreds and two Test fifties to his name, few will argue with that. This is another opportunity to show it.

Philander has batted with the maturity of a senior batsman, despite not being the specialist at the crease. He walked out with his team on 146 for 6 and needing consolidation. Faf du Plessis, who has not scored a half-century in seven Test innings, was with him.

Philander was greeted with an outswinger, one that came back in and a short ball, and negotiated all three with ease. While du Plessis spent time trying to get in, Philander kept the score moving to avoid a build up of pressure. He took risks - an expansive drive off Ishant that he inside-edged for four - and he showed off his prowess when he pulled Mohammad Shami, punched Ishant through point and flicked Zaheer Khan.

Because of Philander, du Plessis had the time to gain his confidence and South Africa remained alive in the match. Philander got the balance between caution and aggression right, treated the bowling with respect but punished it when he had the chance. "Having Faf and Vernon there has been a major help for us," Hashim Amla said. "If you think back to Lord's, Vernon batted really well and he did so here again on a wicket that has done a bit."

Against England last August, Philander had joined JP Duminy at the crease with South Africa on 163 for 6. Both batsmen scored 61 and their partnership gave South Africa a decent total. Philander's last day five-for also played a major part in South Africa winning the Test, the series and the coveted mace. "He has proven his worth as a bowler and batsman for us," Amla said.

His team-mates seemed to know little about the discomfort Philander was in today, with Amla saying he wasn't aware of the toothache. "I didn't know but he did pretty well. I don't think it's affected him too badly," he said. Philander was only due to see the dentist at the end of play today. Given the way he performed with the pain so far, Amla hinted his team-mates may not be too unhappy if he wasn't cured completely by the morning.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Shanmugam on December 20, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    @Greatest_Game, if you have been watching cricket for some time, you would know that every player goes through a bad phase. The truly great ones get out of it sooner rather than later. Dhawan is a classy player and will show his value soon, probably in the next test.

    Anyway, if Dhawan doesn't get you, then Kohli will. Or, Pujara will. Such is the might of this Indian batting line-up that someone (or two) will always deliver. SA is way behind in this game now and would need to do a rain dance to save this. There is no way they are winning this. The best they can hope is a draw. Even that seems a distant possibility now. SA's decline has started and it won't be too long before India topples them from the #1 position.

    If India wins this series, they should be the true #1 side although the rankings will have them as #2. All India needs is one more consistently good bowler and they will be unbeatable. They are a young side too and will be a nightmare for all opposition for a long time.

  • David on December 20, 2013, 10:32 GMT

    @ @ Shan156. …. and Dhawan's dry spell continues - no raining on SA's parade and no "full flow" for him as he was completely outplayed by Philander, drawn forward to a ball seaming away to take his edge and be snapped up for Kallis' 199th test catch, Philander's 100th test wicket, and of course Dhawan's 4th consecutive failure out of 5 test innings.

    Philander has still not bowled to Dhawan "in full flow," as all Dhawan can do each innings in SA is to squeeze out just a teeny little drip, now averaging 6 in ODI's & 14 in tests in SA.

    Tell me - was Dhawan one of those, as you called them, "'cheap wickets" Philander takes as he "has it easy?" Is Dhawan yet teaching him "how difficult bowling actually is."

    No. I don't think so. No flow - just Dhawan's continued failure, and the dashing of your hopes of India raining on Philander's parade. Have a good day, mate ;)

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    @Smahuta - U really think that scores of 280 and 240+ has any side in a dominant position? India has edged ahead. Second innings will determine early if this match is heading for a draw or outright win, and its to close to call.

  • Gavin on December 20, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    Once the SA attack get hold of India on the wicket as it currently is playing, they wont score 100. Sa already have enough runs to win this match. they should declare overnight and bowl india out by lunch, then this game will be over by the end of the day.

  • tanveer on December 20, 2013, 7:15 GMT

    SA performance has been dismal with both bat and ball. India has outplayed them on both days and have surprisingly emerged as the dominant side. I did not expect SA to take such a beating at home from a young inexperienced side. India is looking solid and will most likely win this test if they manage a 30-50 run lead. A subdued SA team may struggle to get 99 in the 2nd innings unless they learn how to bat from Virat.

  • Android on December 20, 2013, 7:00 GMT

    indian has certainly got 2 chances to take full control of game. 1st they didnt capatilize on the ton by kohli amd then after SA collapsed, they couldnt finish off.

    philander is no tailender. has 2 1 st class 100s on these sort of wickets. 1 st hour will be important for these teams. india need to wrap it up quickly. SA got wrong team. tahir is not required against india. should have picked robin. he is better batsman than tahir.

  • Kunal on December 20, 2013, 6:53 GMT

    Kudos to Firdose Moonda to come out with an entire article from a cricketer's tweet. Reminds me of days in school when we didn't figure out a question in the exam and picked up on a couple of words in the question and filled answer sheets on it.

  • Vinit on December 20, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    Philander has hurt India more than his toothache! I wish he score no more runs & takes no more wickets here!

  • Prasanna on December 20, 2013, 5:28 GMT

    Still I dont see SA getting ahead of india. A target of 250 will be hard to knock off. Not a fan of either of these teams, but SA has terribly lagged behind india on every count in this test, except fielding. Their days at the top are numbered, unless the out-of-form batsmen pick themselves up. The commentators indicated that it is bucketing down in Durban so whoever who wins this one-off game wins the series ( ?!! )

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2013, 4:52 GMT

    After so many months...we r getting to see a real test match. ...thats how no 1 and no 2 teams should fight ..:D this may be a win for any of the either teams but I can assure you that yhis is a win for cricket .

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