Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent
It does something to you, that mountain. Maybe it's the way the light falls behind it as the day fades away. Or the way the clouds gather on its flat top, as though preparing for a table to be laid on a pristine white cloth. But the thing it does more than anything else is provide the backdrop that makes Newlands special enough for Faf du Plessis to call it the "home of cricket".
He could have chosen Centurion, South Africa's fortress, where they have only lost two of the 25 Tests they've played, or St George's Park, the oldest and most venerable of this country's venues. He could have picked the Bullring, where no opposition wants to be when the crowd, however big, is baying for blood. But du Plessis decided that Newlands, traditionally the best-attended Test venue, without doubt the prettiest and home to some of the history's greats, is where cricket in South Africa come home.
Jacques Kallis, Peter and Gary Kirsten and Herschelle Gibbs all began their careers here, Graeme Smith ended his here and Vernon Philander enjoyed his greatest successes here. Expect it to get emotional as Philander prepares to say farewell to the place where he made his name.
"This has been a special place to me," Philander said. "It's been good to me. From 2003 to 2020 - 17 years of playing at this pretty venue, this wonderful venue and [in front of] the Newlands faithful. You come in here and you still see the same faces from 2003, still coming to support us. There's no better place to be playing your cricket."
Philander grew up in Ravensmead, a suburb 20km north of Cape Town, and has played all his professional cricket in this province. He made his provincial debut in the four-day domestic final towards the end of the 2003-04 summer and showed what he was about when he took 2 for 18 in 10 overs. At this ground.
Though Philander went on to tear up the first-class bowling charts, his international debut came as a white-ball allrounder in a nondescript ODI triangular series in Ireland. It was only as a new era dawned under Gary Kirsten that Philander got his chance at Test level. At this ground. In that match. Philander took 5 for 15 as South Africa bowled Australia out for 47 and won by eight wickets despite being bowled out for 96 themselves.
In his first 28 Test innings, Philander took nine five-fors, three of them at Newlands. He took 89 wickets in his first 16 Tests at 17.13 and then became the fastest South African to 100 Test wickets. But the years between 2013 and 2016 were tough. In 19 Tests, he managed 46 wickets at 31.69, without a single five-wicket haul.
Coupled with a severe ankle injury, that period could be described as the toughest of Philander's career. It was a time when he needed to lean on the people at home, in and around Newlands, to re-find his feet.
"Test cricket teaches you to come back all the time," Philander said. "You never have a career that goes from 0 to 10. You are always going to have a dip and then come back. Fortunately I have had a good support system over the years. When I took a bit of a knock, I could go to certain people that I really put my trust in and really refresh my mental capacity and go again. That's the most important part of playing international cricket, to make sure you have got a strong base and trust your skill and what you are doing. Test cricket pushes you to the edge, more often than not."
In Hobart in 2016>, dogged by accusations of being over reliant on home conditions, Philander took his 10th five-for in what was a series-winning performance. Since then, he has claimed 85 wickets in 26 Test at an average of 21.82, and though his numbers are not as emphatic as they were at the start of his career, he has provided timely reminders of his brilliance.
The latest came at Centurion, where his four wickets in the first innings set South Africa up for a series lead, as well as their first win in six Test matches. At Newlands, where Philander is capable of much more, England have rightly identified him as one of their biggest threats - but are also keen to make him work for his rewards.
"He's very accurate and very skilful," Joe Root said. "He puts the ball in good areas and asks good questions of your defence and doesn't give you many opportunities to score. But we showed later in the game - in the second innings - that you do get more opportunities if you take him deep. And that will be our challenge. Make sure we're putting overs into their bowlers."
Fitness has been one of the main concerns around the later stages of Philander's career but the one place where he will be willing to go the extra mile and bowl the extra spell is here. He will play two more Tests before signing off but Newlands is where the real goodbye will take place, as one of their own stands against the backdrop of the mountain for the final time.
And it may be more than one. Du Plessis, who had earlier earmarked the T20 World Cup as his swansong, could also be making his last Test appearance at the ground, at his adopted home since moving to Cape Town a few years ago. Asked if this was farewell to Newlands, du Plessis said: "I don't know. I said before that the T20 World Cup would be a crossroad in my career, where I will see where I am at. I think something will have to give. I don't know what that is."
He could, however, step back from ODIs in order to give himself the chance of a farewell to South Africa, Newlands, and that mountain, in another Test match. "Over the next year, Test cricket and T20 cricket are our two main focus points. In the one-day game, we will start looking at guys that will get opportunities. It's important that we do that more and get guys ready. There's not a lot of Test cricket this year. I would like to finish off in South Africa but whether that will be the case, we will talk about it after the World Cup."