On a day where the Australian batsmen enacted a scene straight out of a b-grade horror movie, former skipper Ricky Ponting has offered some consolation by terming their Hobart nemesis Vernon Philander as the ‘hardest’ bowler he had faced during his stellar career.
The 41-year old, who is Australia’s all-time leading run-scorer in both Tests and ODIs, felt sorry for Steven Smith's batting lineup following their woeful performance in the opening day of the second Test at the Bellerive Oval. The South African medium pacer exploited the consistent presence of a thick cloud cover as well as a seam-friendly pitch to raze through the hosts and place his team in the driver’s seat.
Having batted under such conditions plenty of times in his heyday, Ponting analysed the strengths of Philander and how he is different from the other seamers on surfaces encouraging those of his ilk.
Speaking to BT Sport, the Tasmanian felt, “He (Philander) is probably the hardest I faced in world cricket with those type of conditions because you don't get any visual clues with the swinging ball. Most other guys when there's movement, the ball actually swings in the air first and you have some sort of idea of which way the ball is going to go. He doesn't swing the ball at all. It comes out of his hand dead straight and he doesn't know which way it's going to go off the pitch either.“
The right-hander added, “So, you sort of end up trying to find and feel for which way the ball is going to go. We saw a couple of replays today (where) the release was exactly the same on two balls in a row. They landed in almost exactly the same spot, one seamed away and the other one seamed in. He's just a class act when the ball is seaming.”
Upon losing a vital toss, Australia were brushed aside for just 85 even as captain Steve Smith remained unbeaten on 48. Apart from him and seamer Joe Mennie, no one else managed to reach double digits. Philander was the wrecker-in-chief with his nagging length as well as sharp movement resulting in a five-wicket haul.
Ponting’s commendation of the 31-year old does not come across as a major surprise since he only scored 82 runs at an average of 11.71 from 4 Tests against a South African bowling attack featuring Philander. Aside from this, the Australian icon also had a storied rivalry with off-spinner Harbhajan Singh who tormented him relentlessly on viciously turning pitches in India.