Philander fitness key to SA's chances of saving first Test
When will Vernon Philander be fit enough to bowl in England’s second innings in the first Test at Lord’s?
South Africans will be keen to have that question answered‚ what with the home side already 216 runs ahead with nine wickets in hand after three days.
Philander was hit on his bowling hand by James Anderson while batting on Saturday and he did not mark out a run-up when England took guard for the second time.
X-rays did not reveal a fracture but Philander’s hand was swollen enough on Saturday to make him unable to hold the ball well enough to bowl.
Word from the dressingroom was that the South Africans were “optimistic he will bowl” on Sunday.
Even so‚ how South Africa might go about engineering victory is difficult to fathom‚ especially as they will bat last on a pitch that is deteriorating quickly.
But a decent chunk of miserly overs from Philander would limit the damage and keep England at the crease for longer than they would like‚ and therefore take time out of the game — time that South Africa would otherwise have to spend on a defensive batting effort.
Philander is not the only South African fast bowler in the limelight‚ what with Kagiso Rabada banned for the second Test in Nottingham on Friday after earning a fourth demerit point for telling Ben Stokes to “fuck off” after he dismissed the allrounder in the first innings at Lord’s.
“I like to see bowlers play with passion and aggression but we’re under so much scrutiny now that you can’t get away with anything‚” James Anderson‚ an implacably opposed Englishman but a kindred fast bowling spirit‚ said.
Rabada might have escaped punishment had his epithet not been captured and broadcast by the microphones in the stumps.
Had technology invaded what should be a measure of privacy for cricketers?
“I like having the stump mics there but it’s the players’ duty to be aware that they are there‚” Anderson said.
Temba Bavuma suggested Rabada had not come to terms with his fate.
“Like fast bowlers tend to be‚ he’s quite an emotional character‚” Bavuma said.
“He didn’t act like that on purpose and he was aware of the consequences.
“It was just in the heat of the moment.
“He’s heartbroken — he feels he has let down the team.”
It was important‚ Bavuma said‚ to maintain a balance between robust competition and common decency.
“I see it as part and parcel of cricket‚” he said of the often aggressive language bowlers unleash on batsmen.
“You don’t want it to be completely taken away but you still want the respect for the game to be there.”