Philander targets new-ball damage
South Africa fast bowler Vernon Philander believes the key to succeeding in Sri Lankan conditions lies in picking up wickets while the ball is still new. Philander, on his first Test tour of Sri Lanka, feels that seam bowlers can fetch wickets in spin-friendly surfaces by maintaining a simple off-stump line and making the batsmen play.
"The more damage you can do with the new ball the better," Philander said on Monday in Galle two days before the first Test. "You want batsmen five, six and seven batting against a newish nut. In these conditions you want to be striking with the new ball, our lines upfront need to get the batsmen to play.
"I wouldn't really say that lengths change, its more the line of attack. You need to sit on that off-stump line, and make sure you get the lbw into the game, the wider ball becomes the nick-off. Hopefully we can adjust really quickly and assess conditions accordingly."
Philander said he had recovered from the viral infection that ruled him out of the third ODI in Hambantota on Saturday. If he makes the starting XI, it will be his first Test in the subcontinent. Since his Test debut in 2011, Philander has played the majority of his 23 Tests at home in South Africa and toured England, Australia and New Zealand. He played two Tests in the UAE last year - his first Test series in Asia - where he picked up six wickets in two games.
Spinners have performed well in Galle but Philander was hopeful of getting some swing, given the occasional showers.
"There is a bit of moisture and overhead conditions around which will favour the swing bowlers," he said. "We have to wait and see what the deck looks like tomorrow and on the morning of the Test."
Philander was also confident his team would be able to negate the threat of Sri Lanka's lead spinner Rangana Herath, who has 48 wickets at this ground, the second-highest behind Muttiah Muralitharan (111).
"Spin is always a factor when you come to the subcontinent. That's why they prepare wickets to suit their bowlers," Philander said. "He (Herath) is going to be a big threat, but our batsmen played him quite well in the last one-dayer in Hambantota, so hopefully we can continue to do so. I'd like to see our guys stepping up against the spinners and playing them to the best of their abilities."