Nottingham, South Africa captain Faf du Plessis said Vernon Philander was on the way to becoming the “new Jacques Kallis” after his man-of-the-match winning display in a crushing 340-run win over England in the second Test at Trent Bridge. Philander was in fine form with both bat and ball as South Africa won with more than a day to spare. He made valuable scores of 54 and 42 at number seven before taking three wickets for 24 in 10 overs as England, chasing a huge 474 for victory, collapsed to 133 all out in what was their heaviest Test defeat, in terms of runs, at Trent Bridge.
Now retired South Africa great Kallis was an outstanding all-rounder, scoring 45 Test hundreds and averaging more than 55. The lively paceman also took 292 wickets at 32.65, and held 200 catches as well. Philander, primarily a fast-medium bowler with a priceless ability to move the ball late, is some way off matching those figures — his highest score in 45 Tests is 74. But 169 wickets at an average of 22.21 are proof of his potency as a bowler.
“He’s becoming the new Jacques Kallis the way he’s batting,” said du Plessis of Philander after the Proteaslevelled this four-match series at 1-1. “He’s a fantastic cricketer. When there’s something there (in the pitch), he’s probably the best in the world at doing something with it.” South Africa altered the balance of their team after a 211-run defeat in the first Test at Lord’s, a match du Plessis missed following the birth of his first child, and the returning skipper was delighted by how Philander had embraced his enhanced role in Nottingham. “We left a batsman out to play two all-rounders, with that comes extra responsibility,” said the captain.”With the promotion to number seven, I backed his technique and he responded by getting crucial runs in this game. He stepped up to the plate.”
Philander and Chris Morris took two wickets apiece as they reduced an England top order featuring three left-handers to 72 for four before lunch on Monday’s fourth day. England had been set a target way in excess of the record Test fourth innings winning score of 418 for seven by the West Indies against Australia at St John’s in 2002/03.
But, even with a huge number of runs to play with, Philander gave little away. Former England captain Michael Atherton, writing in The Times, said “England lost four wickets to some of the best fast bowling you will see,” adding: “Philander’s opening spell from the Pavilion End should be commissioned as a textbook offering for any seamer of medium pace on how to put top order left-handers under pressure.”
The 32-year-old Philander, explaining how he went about his work, said: “With the moving ball here it’s difficult because you can’t just leave me, with the odd one nipping back. “I’m looking to attack off-stump consistently and that makes life difficult for those left-handers.” Fast bowler Morne Morkel was unlucky not to take a wicket Monday, as the recalled Morris made his presence felt. “With the addition of Chris, our attack is even greater because we’ve got four seamers now,” said Philander.
“It’s exciting to be part of it and to lead an attack.” This match was also a triumph for du Plessis, who took the bold decision to bat first and deployed precise field settings which helped account for Moeen Ali in both innings. All this came against a backdrop of South Africa being without coach Russell Domingo following the death of his mother, while fast bowler Kagiso Rabada served a one-match ban as a result of swearing at Ben Stokes at Lord’s.
“The calmness around him and his leadership, it’s massive,” said Philander of du Plessis’s captaincy. “There’s no sense of panic when the team’s backs are against the wall… It makes it so much easier.”