Philander’s final bow at Newlands
In a bygone era it was the imaginative Eddie Barlow. Modernists will reflect on the classy Jacques Kallis and mercurial Herschelle Gibbs.
But for the best part of the last decade nobody was more exalted than Vernon Philander among the Newlands faithful. “Big Vern” always seemed to haul out his best in front of “his people”. Newlands was his grand stage and specifically New Year was his time to show off.
It’s no wonder then that there’s just a bit of lump in his Philander’s throat as he approaches the second Test here against England, which will also double up as his farewell to his beloved Cape Town supporters.
“Newlands has always been a special place for me. Obviously come Friday its going to be emotional. This place has been so good to me. From 2003 - 2020 that’s 17 years of coming here,” Philander, who announced his retirement from international cricket prior to the start of this England series, said yesterday.
“I still see some of the same faces that were here when I first played coming to support us. That’s obviously very special. There is no better place to play your cricket than at Newlands. Like I said, come Friday I will probably be very emotional playing my last Test match here, but I am looking forward to it.”
Philander’s record at Newlands is exceptional. He has played 10 Tests and bagged 51 wickets at a miserly average of 17.60. This is even superior to his brilliant overall haul of 220 wickets at 21.99.
And yet even at 34-years-old, it seems Philander’s international retirement has come to soon. He set the tone with the new ball last week in the first Test at SuperSport Park to ignite Mark Boucher’s term as Proteas coach.
It was a classical Philander performance. Never blessed with raw speed, he utilised the tools that has worked splendidly for him all these years: skill and guile.
“Extreme pace is not going to get you across the line. You need to be able to be consistent at what you do. And in international cricket guys will work you out. You can have extreme pace, rush batters and make life uncomfortable for them but at some stage, guys are going to get used to your pace and they are going to be able to play you,” Philander said.
“It’s finding what works for you on different surfaces and saying, ‘I can actually hold the game as well, at whatever pace’. I think Test cricket teaches you to come back all the time. It is no different with me. There are times when you will go through a dip, but that’s up to the individual how he wants to come back. I have been fortunate to have a good support system. I think its about trusting your skill because Test cricket pushes you to the edge.”
There’s no doubt Newlands will raise in unison to applaud Philander when he walks off towards the Members Pavilion for the final time. Don’t bet against him having the ball in his hand and holding it aloft after one special finale.