Big Vern’s test to re­mem­ber

CityPress - - Sport - SIMNIKIWE XABANISA sports@city­press.co.za

Eng­land’s Alastair Cook, Ben Stokes and Toby Roland-Jones may beg to differ, but for South Africans keen on tak­ing a moral vic­tory of sorts from the Proteas’ third test against the Poms, this game will be re­mem­bered as Ver­non Phi­lan­der’s.

Cook’s 88 set the foun­da­tion for Eng­land to score 353 on a tricky wicket that al­ways had some­thing in it for the bowlers; Stokes’ 112 con­tin­ued to mark him as a thorn in the Proteas’ side; and Roland-Jones’ all-round per­for­mance (25 and 5/57) on de­but all grabbed head­lines dur­ing the first three days of this test.

But, in keep­ing with the dura­bil­ity of a Ken­ning­ton Oval sta­dium host­ing its 100th test, it was Phi­lan­der’s tilt­ing at wind­mills in a patchy South African per­for­mance that caught the imag­i­na­tion.

Hav­ing gone into the game feel­ing crook – he was di­ag­nosed with a vi­ral in­fec­tion and hos­pi­talised on day two – Phi­lan­der had an up­set stom­ach and vom­ited his way through bowl­ing spells dur­ing Eng­land’s first in­nings in one of the more silently brave per­for­mances in his­tory.

As ill as he was, his 2/32 off 17 overs from his nag­gingly ac­cu­rate seam­ers was still the pick of South Africa’s bowl­ing given that it was the near­est thing to a con­sis­tent blowtorch ex­am­i­na­tion of the hosts’ tech­niques.

When his team was in trou­ble overnight at 126/8, he ripped out his drip and got dis­charged from hospi­tal to muck in with an un­beaten 10 be­fore South Africa were dis­missed for 175 – 178 runs be­hind in spite of Temba Bavuma’s half-cen­tury hero­ics.

For some rea­son, cricket fans have al­ways been sus­pi­cious of “Big Vern”. Maybe it’s the con­stant hint of a boep, but the sturdy Phi­lan­der has al­ways been told that he’s ei­ther not fast enough, can’t bowl on sur­faces that don’t suit his bowl­ing or has in­ef­fec­tual third and fourth spells.

Yet, in the first three days of this test, he laid his dura­bil­ity and courage bare for all to see by tak­ing re­ceipt of the ball when he should have been hal­lu­ci­nat­ing in bed.

But all of that looks as if it may have been in vain as Eng­land go into day four to­day on 74/1, 252 with nine wick­ets re­main­ing af­ter three rain-in­ter­rupted days, which cur­tailed the hosts’ second in­nings af­ter only 21.2 overs.

If the vis­i­tors are to some­how sal­vage some­thing from the game, it’ll prob­a­bly come from the med­dling rain. Well, that or another dip into Big Vern’s bot­tom­less well of fight­ing re­serves.

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