Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
Vernon Philander, who is eyeing a Test return for South Africa, expressed concern about the pink ball after using it for the first time against Australia A in Brisbane. South Africa A are on a recce trip down under, ahead of a Test tour in November, which will include a day-night Test in Adelaide and, so far, their bowlers have found the going tough, even during the day.
Australia A racked up 302 for 5 in the 88 overs bowled on the first day, and Philander explained that most of those were bowled with a soft ball. "The pink ball is a bit similar to the Duke, except that when we got past 30 overs, the ball got extremely soft. That's the only negative about it," he said, though he did not go so far as to suggest that he will be anti-day-night Test, which some of his team-mates were when the fixtures were being decided. "We are all excited about the pink-ball game, and as long as we can improve the ball, we will have a good future with the pink ball."
Before South Africa agreed to play the Test under lights, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Philander himself had all stressed that they did not want to play a Test with the pink ball because of their inexperience with it. A compromise was reached when Cricket Australia offered South Africa two practice matches during the series and an A-side match on this trip. Since then, South African players have said they are looking forward to the match.
Whether Philander will feature in the fixture remains to be seen. He missed seven of South Africa's eight Tests last summer after tearing ankle ligaments in the warm-ups of the Bangalore Test, and did not recover until the end of the season when he made a comeback in franchise cricket. He has since been on a tour of Zimbabwe with the A team and is part of the current A series in Australia. Philander is hopeful of being picked for South Africa's Tests against New Zealand in August, but will be competing for a spot against Morne Morkel, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, who also missed a significant part of the previous season with injury but has not been included in the A tour.
Philander has already shown signs that he could be back to his best. He took four wickets in the Zimbabwe series, conceded less than two runs to the over, and was similarly miserly on the opening day against Australia A. Philander delivered 17 overs and took 1 for 32 - an economy rate of 1.88. "The ball came out well in patches for me. I bowled really in the morning and this afternoon and let it slip a little towards the back end, but all in all, I am happy with my performance," he said.
Also impressive was 20-year old seamer Andile Phehlukwayo, who took 1 for 44, and Philander expects the attack to get better as the series goes on. "The boys bowled well in patches. There was a lack of preparation coming over here with us having two days of practice and having to turn around," he said. "Australia played out of their socks, but our focus will be on getting the other five wickets and then letting the batsmen do their thing."