TELFORD VICE at Trent Bridge
LIKE many would, Vernon Philander scoffed at an assertion Faf du Plessis made after the allrounder played a key role in South Africa beating England in the second test here on Monday.
“He’s becoming the new Jacques Kallis the way he’s batting,” Du Plessis said of Philander, who scored 54 and 42 and took 2/48 and 3/24 to help South Africa win by 340 runs with more than a day to spare and level the series with two matches left to play.
Du Plessis’ theory got short shrift from Philander sitting next to him: “Absolutely not.”
But the captain would not be told otherwise.
“We joke about it because his technique is becoming the same as Kallis’ as well,” Du Plessis said.
“For me the most important thing in this game was that he had a new challenge on his shoulders.
“We left a batsmen out to play two allrounders and with that comes extra responsibility.
“We gave him the promotion to No. 7 because I back his technique and his batting and he responded beautifully by getting crucial runs for us.”
Philander himself would have been surprised to learn that the comparison with Kallis, outrageous in some ways because of Kallis’ outsized natural talent in all three of cricket’s disciplines, bore scrutiny in others.
In 15 tests here Kallis averaged 35.33 with the bat and 32.65 with the ball. Philander has played only five tests in England, but his averages are 40.28 — with just one not out — and 21.60.
Kallis batted higher in the order than Philander does and thus faced fresher bowlers armed with a newer ball.
But Philander has to marshal the tail and is often called on to deal with the second new ball.
So it was alarming to discover that he was, it seems, trying to talk his way out of playing in the first test, which England won by 211 runs inside four days.
“Going into that Lord’s test I was probably a bit undercooked,” Philander said.
“I had a chat with the higher powers but they wanted me to play.
“I’ve just got back from an ankle injury and literally bowled that week before the test match.”
When Philander arrived in England in 2012 his ability was questioned by English cricket’s cognoscenti.
He left with 15 wickets in the series, the last five of them taken in the second innings of the last test at Lord’s — where South Africa won to confirm their rise to the top of the rankings.
Something similar has happened this time.
Did that bother him?
“Playing international cricket you’re always going to be judged and have people making comments, but that’s something that we as a side put out of our minds,” he said.
“We’ve got a job to do — we’ve got to take 20 wickets.
“As long as I fulfill my role in the side and continue to contribute with bat and ball I’m doing my job.”
Kallis might have said something like that.