Cricket

Vernon Philander is more rounded than SA gives him credit for

And few realise that he's not just a bowler but an all-rounder

28 April 2019 - 00:05 By TELFORD VICE


You have the ball in hand at the top of your run in a game in this season's franchise T20 competition. Which three players would you rather not have awaiting you, tapping a bat at the far end of the pitch?
If you listed Theunis de Bruyn and Diego Rosier, fine - they led the averages going into Friday's matches.
But the name of the other guy will surprise those who haven't kept an eye on the domestic game this summer. Vernon Philander was third in the averages, largely because he's been difficult to dismiss.
Four times out of seven he's been still standing at the end of a Cobras innings, but not because he's spent his time protecting his wicket by nurdling politely.
NO RECOGNITION
Philander has been happy to hit - his 40 not out against the Knights at Newlands on April 16 was studded with four sixes - and play properly: his 31 against the Lions at the Wanderers on April 7 came off 17 balls, but included only one four and two sixes.
Have SA missed a trick by not nurturing Philander's batting ability more carefully to fulfil his potential as an all-rounder?
Even when he claimed, in March 2014, the No1 spot on the Test all-rounders' rankings he was never recognised as such. Philander, now 33, has and will always be known as a fine seam bowler who can bat a bit.
There seems to be more to him than that, or should we not compare the apples of SA's domestic system to the pears of the international stage?
GIBBS LESS DIPLOMATIC
"It's probably a bit of a stretch to think that what he does [in the T20 competition] he can do at international level," Jon Kent, these days a commentator and player manager, said.
Herschelle Gibbs was less diplomatic: "Don't look to deeply into that. Our domestic bowlers are bowling at 125km/h on average - even you could hit a few sixes."
This reporter will take the backhanded compliment, and thank you Mr Gibbs.
But the wider game in SA will not be happy with his opinion that "our domestic cricket is probably at its lowest standard in 20 years".
It's not the first time the country's current players would have heard that they aren't fit to strap the pads onto those who have gone before.
NO DOMESTIC BLISS
But it will hurt that this time it comes not from some bitter old ballie harbouring a racist agenda but from a black player not that long gone from the game.
The challenge is that domestic cricket, flawed as it is, remains an important part of the puzzle of picking teams who will be competitive in, for instance, the World Cup.
And it's homeward that SA will have to look if the selected squad can't answer the several injury questions that hang over them ahead of the tournament in England next month
"If [Lungi] Ngidi, [Anrich] Nortjé and [Dale] Steyn are under pressure, the whole bowling line-up might change," Kent said.
Those players are all in the World Cup 15 and all battling assorted ailments. What if one of them doesn't make it? Philander is fit and firing with 10 wickets in his seven T20s for the Cobras. And he can bat. Yes, really.

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