SA v India, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 3rd day December 20, 2013

Philander is fastest SA bowler to 100 Test wickets


Match Point: 'Philander's strike rate sets him apart'

Vernon Philander became the fastest South African to 100 Test wickets, at the Wanderers on Friday, when he had Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan caught at second slip. Jacques Kallis, stationed in the cordon, collected the catch to ensure Philander reached the landmark in his 19th Test, one quicker than his new-ball partner Dale Steyn.

He accounted for Dhawan in typical Philander fashion, getting the batsman to push at a short of a length ball outside offstump, and then celebrated the feat with a tailor-made salute to the dressing-room. First he held up both index fingers and then cupped his hands into a circle twice. He was signaling the number of batsmen he has sent on their way.

Speaking after the day's play, Philander said he hoped to keep his form going for his team. "I was reminded a few times of how close I was [to the landmark], like recently in the UAE. But to me, today was just another game," he said. "Hopefully I can grab a few more sticks in the future for South Africa."

Philander lies joint-sixth on the all-time list of fastest to 100 wickets, behind George Lohmann, who brought up the landmark in 16 Tests, Charlie Turner, Sydney Barnes and Clarrie Grimmet, who did it in 17 Tests, and R Ashwin, who managed it in 18. Philander was also the joint second-fastest to 50 wickets, having achieved that in just seven Tests.

"It's a very important milestone. He has proved he can be successful in all conditions. Now he does not have to prove anything; he has that self-belief," Makhaya Ntini, the former South Africa quick, told ESPNcricinfo.

Apart from his bowling landmark, Philander also scored his third Test half-century in this match, rescuing his tottering side and helping lift them to within 50 of India's first-innings total. All three of his fifties - the other two being against England at Lord's and against Pakistan in Centurion - have come when his team was in a tough spot. Philander said he consciously works on his batting. "I spend a lot of time of my batting. I take great pride in it I enjoy those moments when the pressure is up."

Philander made his Test debut in Cape Town in November 2011 against Australia - the first Test South Africa played under Gary Kirsten's tenure. His took his first wicket in his third over, squaring Phil Hughes up to induce the edge and give Mark Boucher his 500th Test catch.

In that match, Philander finished with eight wickets, including the first of his nine five-wicket hauls. A second five-for in Johannesburg in the following match saw him named Man of the Series in his first outing as a Test cricketer. He followed up with the first of two ten-wicket hauls, against Sri Lanka, in Centurion. His other ten-for came in Hamilton the following March, where Doug Bracewell became his 50th wicket.

At that stage, Philander had only played in South Africa and New Zealand, and some expected things to get much tougher for him in other conditions. In his first two Tests in England, it seemed they had a point. He took just five wickets before surging to seven at Lord's, including a match-winning five-for in the second innings. With that series win, South Africa became the No. 1 ranked team in the world.

Overall, Philander's record is only slightly less impressive on the road than it is at home. Forty-three of his 100 wickets have come in New Zealand, England, Australia and the UAE at an average of 22.00, while the remaining 57 were picked up in South Africa at a touch over 14. His most successful hunting ground is his home venue, Newlands, where he has 30 wickets at an average of just 12.00.

"What's made Vernon so successful is that he is consistent. He bowls good areas all the time, he hardly delivers a bad ball and he moves it just enough. If he keeps going like this he will be at 150 in no time but the real pressure will be for him to get to 390," Ntini, whose Test career ended with him 10 short of 400 wickets, joked. The fastest to 150 wickets in Barnes in 24 Tests, which means Philander will have to take 10 a match to beat that.

That may be a tough ask but Philander has already surprised many. When his Test career began, Philander had the lowest average of all active bowlers on the South African first-class circuit but plenty of doubters who believed he was not quick enough and did not do enough with the ball to make an impact. Nineteen Tests later, not many of them will have that opinion anymore.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 22, 2013, 18:06 GMT

    Is Philander in the top 10 in fast bowlers. I love to see him bowl from Jump street.

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2013, 14:14 GMT

    Great skill, great control, and thrives under pressure as well. What a revelation he has been for our test side. Big Vern - well done boet!

  • Robert on December 21, 2013, 8:41 GMT

    @jango_moh - I didn't say that only Indian pitches are doctored; every cricketing nation obviously produces pitches that it's bowlers will find friendly, because those are the kind of pitches they grew up with. My point was that Philander has played on all kinds of pitches across the world in his short career, and has been equally successful on all of them. There were some Indian 'fans' saying that he could only bowl on bouncy, South-African type pitches (the current one is clearly not one of those!) and I was pointing out that they are wrong.

  • moginraj on December 21, 2013, 2:17 GMT

    @jackthelad ... agree with you that philander has done very well and im a fan too.... but why judge only indian pitches as "doctored"???? just bcos ur not from the subcontinent doesnt mean you can call spinning pitches doctored... we dont say the WACA is a doctored pitch!!!! it takes skill to play spin as well as pace, just different challenges thats all.... on a spinning "doctored" pitch, you can still bat very well and score big.... its either FLAT TRACKS or "doctored" pitches!!!! give credit where its due!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2013, 2:07 GMT

    Congrats to Vernon! He surely deserves the accolades. Whatever the conditions, it is a fantastic achievement!! To be in the all-time top 6 list is truly remarkable.

  • Bunnie on December 20, 2013, 22:52 GMT

    Only fools would think Steyn is better than Philander. Philander averages 5 runs better and strikes more regularly. Oh wait, but Steyn bowls 15km/hour faster and is more entertaining in his wicket taking so he must be better. Absurd!

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2013, 21:48 GMT

    Philander is a very good bowler. But, @jackthelad, I don't quite get how he is 'far superior to Ashwin'. If Ashwin got most of his wickets in his home conditions, so did Philander. Pretty sure you would call me a 'one-eyed commenter' after this, but facts are facts.

  • Patrick on December 20, 2013, 20:04 GMT

    @gsingh7, one over used style of doctored dry pitch is not a big gap for a fast bowler. India often only play 1 quick bowler in home tests the wickets are made so unfriendly to pace. If you read the article he averages 22 on the road, Aust wickets are mostly very different to NZ & different again to Eng, UAE pitches are hardly seam friendly or fast bouncy tracks either! Eng thought they'd be clever & imitate Indian pitches for the home ashes after their success away and look at what it's done for them! Variety my friend is the spice of life, I see more pace friendly pitches in the IPL, why are the hoses turned off before every test if India can play like this???

  • Robert on December 20, 2013, 18:05 GMT

    You have to wonder what it is exactly that young Philander does. He's not one of the quickest, he isn't a big mover of the ball, he doesn't play intimidating tactics ... yet he's been consistently successful under all the bowling conditions you can get, maintaining line and length (the fundamentals of bowling) and just doing enough to induce doubt in batsmen. Without any apologies to the Indian contingent of one-eyed commenters here, Philander's record - across four continents - is far superior to Ashwin's, who took most of his wickets on doctored Indian pitches (Ashwin is still an excellent bowler, may I add). I speak as an England supporter, with no axe to grind for either of these sides.

  • Sundeep on December 20, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    He gets wickets because at the other end Steyn or Morkel creates tremendous pressure.