When South Africa bounced back vigorously at Nottingham to square the series, Vernon Philander had a huge role to play behind his side’s victory. He not only chipped wickets with the new ball but also scored crucial runs in the lower middle-order to help his side register a much-needed win. He was promoted to No 7 in the batting order and shouldered the responsibility well. For this magnificent outing, he was also awarded the Man-Of-The-Match Trophy. There was an interesting comparison made by South African skipper Faf du Plessis, where he said that Vernon Philander was becoming the new Jacques Kallis. Philander’s contribution was huge in that victory.

Philander has done a commendable job and is certainly among the best all-rounders in contemporary cricket. He has been an integral part of the team and the all-rounder has done exceptionally well so far.  Philander doesn’t boast of express pace but his immaculate control and incredible ability to move the ball both the ways stands him apart from his imminent peers. Philander has been equally destructive against right-handers as well as left-handers with the red cherry in hand. Philander has got rid of right-handed batsman on 111 occasions while he has 60 left-handers wicket in his basket. His average is 18.95 against the right-handers while against the left-handed batsmen, he averages 17.90. The negligible difference in his averages speaks about his effectiveness against any kind of batsmen at the crease.

Philander fared well at Lords; in the first innings, he scalped three key wickets for 67 in 20 overs. His scalps included Alastair Cook, Keaton Jennings and Jonny Bairstow. After which, he came out fighting with the bat to record his sixth Test fifty. He also remained unbeaten in the second innings on 12. He continued his good run in Nottingham. He got runs with the bat, scoring his seventh Test fifth after which, he led the pace attack with immense confidence. South Africa were without Kagiso Rabada but Philander did well in getting rid of Alastair Cook and Gary Ballance to set the tone in the first innings. He didn’t stop there. Philander chipped in with 42 crucial runs in the second innings and then wreaked havoc with the new ball. He got rid of Keaton Jennings and Gary Ballance to set the foundation of a massive victory and then got the better of Ben Stokes to steer his side on the brink of a scintillating victory. There has been a pattern with Philander’s bowling. He has mostly got the better of top-order and middle-order batsmen, which is amazing.

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In the ongoing third Test at The Oval, Philander delivered a mesmerizing opening spell, where he bowled four overs for a solitary wicket, conceding just two runs. Philander steamed in and got the new ball to swing. South Africa needed an early wicket and Philander ensured they got one. Keaton Jennings edged one to Dean Elgar at third slip for a duck and his poor run in the series continued. He had some stomach problems before the game and South Africa couldn’t have afforded to leave the on-song all-rounder out of the decisive game. They needed Philander to perform and he did so but this time it was just four overs before he was given some rest.

By the time Philander was brought back into the attack, debutant Tom Westley’s promising start was cut short by Chris Morris and ball lost its shine. Philander was brought back into the attack in the 37th over and he weaved his magic once again with the ball. In the very second over of his second spell, Philander got the prized wicket of Joe Root with a peach of a delivery and broke the spine of England’s batting. He bowled five overs in his second spell for six runs and got the huge wicket of Joe Root along with a couple of maidens.

Root’s early dismissal is always a boon for the opposition, for the fact that he has a knack of playing big innings. Root was beautifully set up Philander but credit should also be given to Quinton de Kock for cupping a magnificent catch behind the stumps. And then in the final spell of the day, Philander delivered three overs for nine but created problems for Ben Stokes. Rains interrupted the play on Day 1 and just 59 overs were bowled. Philander bowled five overs on Day 2 in his only spell, conceding 15 runs for no wicket.

Philander’s batting has found a new rhythm this year. His average of 38.85 in 8 Tests this year corroborates the belief. After getting the job done with the ball, Philander will now look to contribute with the bat and continue his good form. His determination was outstanding as he overcame his health issues and produced a solid spell with the new ball. This kind of determination lifts the team’s spirit and Philander will be looking forward to replicate it with the bat as well.

South Africa dismantled England for 350 with Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada picking three wickets each. Ben Stokes sailed the English ship from choppy waters with a determined century and helped them post a competitive total.

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