Vernon, KG snuff out Sri Lanka challenge
Big quicks make mincemeat out of the visitors’ batting line-up and put Proteas in pound seats
NINETY minutes. Nineteen overs. That’s all it took for South Africa’s fast bowlers to create yet another treasured afternoon at this most storied of cricket grounds.
And it was once again one of its favourite sons that tore up the script and produced his personal epic.
Prior to this New Year Test Vernon Philander averaged a superhuman 18.42 here. This will plummet even further now after the “Ravensmead Wrecker” tore up the Sri Lankan lower-order to finish with 4/27 from 12 spellbinding overs, which in the process took the 31-year-old past 150 Test wickets in just his 39th Test.
It was mesmerising viewing with nobody in the strong crowd expecting a capitulation of such colossal proportions. Sri Lanka lost their last nine wickets for the addition of just 54 runs to leave the hosts with a potentially match-winning 282-run first innings lead.
“Coming here to the home of cricket is always a good place to play at. It’s a venue where I really enjoy playing my cricket. To get my 150th wicket at Newlands, I couldn’t have asked for a better place to take it.
“I’ve got all my homebased supporters here. The Ravensmead Wreckers! I really enjoy playing my cricket here being from Cape Town. I just want to help my country win cricket matches,” Philander said.
Newlands has a legacy though of providing the theatrical backdrop for new heroes to be unearthed too.
Kagiso Rabada may have shown off his special talents on the world stage before, but the 21-year-old would have known that a performance in the New Year Test in front of the knowledgeable Newlands support base is where reputations are earned.
The young fast bowler was certainly fired up for the task ahead, especially after the South Africans emerged from the dressingroom after the tea interval.
There was special glint in his eye when he came charging in from the Wynberg End. The Sri Lankans certainly felt the pressure increase as they tamely surrendered with senior batsmen Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal all guilty of supporting their demise with poor shot-selection outside the offstump.
Their ill-discipline should take nothing away from Rabada’s efforts though for his energy and verve rattled the Sri Lankans to the core.
“KG bowled a very good spell for us just after tea that really set up the rest of the game for us. He’s got those moments in him, those spells in him, and I think there is still a lot to be seen of KG and hopefully he can fire in the rest of the Test matches for us as well,” Philander enthused.
However, there was one further twist in the plot after the Sri Lankans were rolled. Instead of Philander coming out with the new ball again to hopefully complete a maiden Test hat-trick – he had earlier finished off the Sri Lankan innings with two wickets off consecutive balls – it was instead openers Dean Elgar and Stephen Cook who came out to take guard.
Captain Faf du Plessis opted not to enforce the follow-on and instead chose to drive home the advantage even further with the bat. It was surprising considering Quinton de Kock’s century earlier in the day had set up a solid first innings and that the Sri Lankan reply had lasted just 43 overs in its entirety, but Philander defended his skipper’s decision at the close of play.
“I think as a team we’ve made a decision as to what is the best chance for us to win this game. We feel that setting up the game with the bat will allow the bowlers a bit of a break. These are backto-back Test matches and the bowlers put in a big workload in Port Elizabeth. We feel this is the best way forward.”