Vernon Philander: The unsung hero of South African cricket
South Africa were blessed with the pace trio of Dale Steyn, Morné Morkel, and Vernon Philander this decade. The trio were a part of a formidable bowling attack which won many Test matches for South Africa in home conditions as well as in alien conditions away from home. While Morne Morkel has retired from international cricket and Dale Steyn also calling it a day in Test cricket, the Proteas relied upon Philander to lead their bowling attack and to mentor young pacemen in their early days in international cricket.
Also see – World Test Championship Schedule
Philander has announced his retirement from international cricket after the Test series against England and his absence post it will be felt in the South African team. He made his debut in T20 internationals and ODI in 2007. However, he did not create much impact in those formats. He made his Test debut in November, 2011 and it was indeed a memorable one. He picked up 8 wickets for 78 runs in his debut Test against Australia at Newlands which included a 5-wicket haul.
There was no stopping Philander thereafter as he picked up wickets in heaps. He picked up 51 wickets in 7 Tests and is the second fastest cricketer to achieve the milestone. His feat earned him the South African cricketer of the year accolade in 2012. He also holds the distinction of picking up 100 wickets in just 19 Tests which is the joint sixth fastest in Test cricket.
In 60 Tests till date, Philander has scalped 216 wickets at an impressive average of 22.16 and strike rate of 49.91. Philander did not have the express pace which Steyn and Morkel had. However, in conditions conducive to seam bowling, he is very handy. He is extremely accurate with line and length and has the ability to move the ball both ways. Out of his 216 Test wickets, he has got the batsmen bowled on 28 occasions and leg before wicket 43 times. He induced the edge of the batsmen and got them caught behind on 63 occasions.
He had an incredible 2018 when he picked up 32 wickets at an average of 17.03. However, 2019 was an indifferent year for him as he was in and out of the team due to injuries. He has picked up 11 wickets in 2019 at an average of 33.73. Philander has picked up 138 wickets in home Tests at an average of 18.65 which include nine 5-wicket hauls and a solo 10-wicket haul. In Tests away from home, he has 78 wickets to his credit.
Philander has been a handy batsman lower down the order for South Africa and has scored 1619 runs at an average of 24.16 with 8 half centuries. He provided resistance on many occasions lower down the order to enable South Africa to win Test matches.
The impact of Philander on South African cricket in the last 8 years has been massive. He has been their main striking weapon especially in home conditions and all visiting teams have struggled against him. His retirement will indeed be a huge setback for South African cricket who are yet to recover from the retirements of Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, Morne Morkel, and AB de Villiers. Philander will be leaving behind a legacy and it will be up to the next generation of South African cricket to take South Africa forward. The likes of Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, and Anrich Nortje will certainly look to emulate Philander.
As far as Philander is concerned, his main aim will be to lead the South African bowling attack in the upcoming series against England and pick up wickets and lead South Africa to a win in the Test series and finish on a high.
Note: All statistics as of Dec 24, 2019Published 25 Dec 2019, 12:37 IST