Vern, please explain …

Times Media


YOU had to feel for Vernon Philander after stumps on Thursday. There he sat, having earned the questionable honour of attending the press conference by taking 3/46, explaining the errors of others.

England, who had limped to lunch on 82/4 on the first day of the test series, reached the close on 357/5.

That was the upshot of Morne Morkel and Keshav Maharaj taking what they thought were wickets with what turned out to be no-balls, and Kagiso Rabada having a catch dropped and another botched.

Philander himself conceded five runs in no-balls, but at least he didn’t deny himself a wicket.

Morkel knows that sick feeling all too well having now suffered it 13 times in tests.

Tell us about no-balls that take wickets, then, Vernon?

“There’s probably no excuse for that,” he said. “A couple of guys overstepped, and that was quite expensive for us.

“It was just a poor day in the field overall.”

Joe Root was the beneficiary of three of the mishaps.

He should have been caught on the fine leg fence off Rabada for five, but substitute fielder Aiden Markram was in the wrong place at the wrong time and the ball trickled to the boundary.

“I started walking back; I thought I had hit it straight to him,” Root said, his voice scratchy from a cold and not from making too many of what he called “Churchillian speeches”.

Root had advanced to 16 when he slashed to gully and JP Duminy palmed the catch over the bar. Rabada was again the aggrieved bowler.

But the worst was yet to come, with Maharaj committing the inexcusable: a spinner’s no-ball.

And that with Root well out of his ground and easily stumped by Quinton de Kock for what should have been 149.

It was the first time in his career, Root said, that a slow bowler had done him that favour.

“It’s a nice feeling getting that call back when you’ve made a glaring error like that,” he said.

Instead of being left to rue at least one of his mistakes, Root was set to resume on Friday on 184, the highest score by an England captain in his first test at the helm.

“He gave us chances, and had we taken them we might have bowled them out for under 200,” Philander said.

What did he make of Dean Elgar’s first day as South Africa’s stand-in captain in the absence of Faf du Plessis?

“He couldn’t put a foot wrong until lunch and everything went pear-shaped afterwards.

“But you can only be as good as your players allow you to be.”

Indeed. And South Africa will have to be better on Friday.


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