If Vernon Philander was asked what his favourite fruit was, he would struggle not to say a kiwi. The star Proteas opening bowler simply loves feasting on cricket’s Kiwis, and did it again yesterday with a supreme bowling performance at Newlands.
Philander tormented the Black Caps at the beginning of 2012 with 21 wickets at just over 15 runs per wicket.
Now back on his own turf, he terrorised them even further on a manic first morning of the series. He swung the ball just enough, made it seam a little more, and the result was another ‘fifer’ at his home ground.
It did not cost him much either. In fact, hardly anything as his figures read 6-3-7-5 and New Zealand’s innings was basically over at 27/5 when Philander’s opening spell was completed.
“It all happened so quickly,” he said at the close of play.
“We put the ball in the right areas. It’s Newlands, there is always something on the first or second morning. But we bowled well as a unit.”
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum, who actually chose to bat after winning the toss, was unequivocal in his praise of South Africa’s Cricketer of the Year.
“The spell we saw from Philander is as good a spell as you would see in Test cricket. He never missed his length and asked questions defensively. He also managed to defend his stumps and get the odd ball to kiss away. The conditions clearly helped him today and his ability to constantly hit the same line and length. I can’t stress how great a bowling performance it was but we need to be better as well,” McCullum said.
But it was not just the Ravensmead-bred seamer that wreaked havoc amongst the Kiwis. Dale Steyn bowled much better in his second spell, claiming his 300th wicket in the process when he sent Doug Bracewell’s off-stump cartwheeling, and Morne Morkel was his usual hostile self that was simply too much for the Black Caps to handle.
“They are such a great bowling line- up that never lets up. We were never able to create partnership and we were under pressure the whole time. Morkel and Steyn chipped in with their hostility,” McCullum added.
South Africa’s dominance on day one was underlined in the two latter sessions. On a pitch that had looked to have all sorts of pythons lurking beneath in the morning, the Proteas batsmen could not have had a more serene afternoon. They lost three wickets – Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis – but they still managed to compile a lead of 207 without ever moving into second gear.
Smith’s early dismissal was offset through an enterprising partnership between Amla (66) and Alviro Petersen. The latter was magnificent yesterday, moving to an unbeaten 103 when stumps were drawn at 6pm. He, like Philander, is developing an affection with Newlands that seems to bring the best out of him. It was Petersen’s second successive Test century in Cape Town after reaching three figures in the Test against Sri Lanka last New Year’s.
However, it was a day that despite his fifth Test century, Petersen would have to play second fiddle to Kallis (66). The legendary South African all-rounder confirmed his status among the world’s elite when he moved past 13 000 Test runs yesterday – the second fastest to reach the milestone with only the great Sachin Tendulkar having achieved it quicker.
“It was privilege to do it in front of my home fans. They have always been good to me and it was a fantastic feeling when I received the ovation I did,” Kallis enthused.
The Test has certainly moved along quicker than most could have expected, but South Africa would still look to bat a lengthy period today to drive home their advantage even further. There is rain forecast today in Cape Town, although that could merely serve as a refreshing breather after yesterday’s intoxicating day of Test cricket. - Cape Argus