Philander takes focus off De Villiers, but not in a good way

Times Media


TELFORD VICE, Bangalore

SA would have welcomed something to defuse the fuss over AB de Villiers’ bringing up a century of tests in Bangalore on Saturday.

But this they didn’t need: Vernon Philander standing on Dean Elgar’s foot during the football game that served as a warm-up for Thursday’s training session.

“It might be nothing; it might be bad,” AB de Villiers said as Philander, who was carried off the field, was taken to hospital.

It was the latter. Philander tore ankle ligaments and has been ruled out for up to eight weeks.

And that with Dale Steyn facing another fitness test on Friday on the groin injury he sustained while SA were suffering the insult of being beaten by 108 runs in the first test in Mohali.

That Philander has been replaced in the squad by Kyle Abbott aches with the irony of the World Cup semi-final and all that. Take your pick of the gallows humour – it only hurts when we laugh, or irony, jou ma se …

Not that this is at all funny, especially as since readmission SA have not won an away series of three matches or more after losing the first game.

And also because Philander bowled with the kind of fire in his belly in Mohali that went unreflected in his match figures of 3/61.

In India’s first innings he did his own fielding after Ravindra Jadeja defended, flung the ball at the batsman dallying down the pitch, and turned on his heel to shove non-striker Ravichandran Ashwin – all 1.88 metres of him – out of his way.

What Philander in that mood might have done on a Bangalore pitch whose transformation into the requisite spitting spinners’ strip could have been hampered by the three days of rain that have fallen here this week will thus remain moot.

Whereas the pitch in Mohali has never been relayed in the ground’s 23-year history, Bangalore’s surface is newer and fresher. On top of that, two days of those three days rain fell before groundstaff erected a tent over the middle.

Not that Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will complain, now that there is room for both of them in the XI. JP Duminy, meanwhile, seems set to come in for Simon Harmer.

For India, Ishant Sharma is likely to replace Varun Aaron. But Sharma may be the only fast bowler to crack the nod for the home side.

That mix will, of course, be dictated by the pitch, the villain of the piece in Mohali. Will it also be the bad guy in Bangalore?

“Way too much has been made of it,” De Villiers said. “No-one scored a hundred. Both teams struggled against spin and looked foolish at times against spin.

“We didn’t play to our potential in one or two sessions and that cost us the game.

“We could have batted a bit better in the first innings. Unfortunately we didn’t, and somewhere in India’s second innings we let it slip by 50 to 100 runs. That’s where we lost the test match – it’s got nothing to do with the pitch.”

Or, as Cheteshwar Pujara said, “Their bowlers are good but ours bowled really well which is why we won that match.”

And this pitch?

“We know it’s going to turn,” De Villiers said. “We know it’s not going to be the Wanderers.”

Damn straight, on all counts.

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