CAPE TOWN – For all Vernon Philander’s skills with both bat and ball, these are not his greatest assets, according to his Cape Cobras Ashwell Prince.
Instead, Prince believes Philander – who made his return to competitive cricket this week in the ongoing Sunfoil Series match in Oudtshoorn after an injury-induced absence – brings a “match-winning attitude” to any team he plays for.
The Proteas all-rounder last played at The Oval in the third Test against England in July, where he was hampered by a stomach bug that saw him spend a night in hospital during the Test.
Philander, though, had been named Man of the Match in the previous game at Trent Bridge, which was the only Test the Proteas won on their dismal tour of England.
“Vernon brings plenty of class to the dressing room. He is obviously a world-class bowler, and he contributes with the bat,” Prince told Independent Media on Wednesday.
“But that’s not even his most important qualities. He brings a match-winning attitude. He adds a lot of value because of the input he has in the dressing room.
“He doesn’t just sit quietly in his corner, but instead speaks up and says plenty of positive things that help inspire the guys around him.
“Often you need players like him Vern in the dressing room to get the team firing.”
Although the Proteas crushed Bangladesh in a recent two-match series at home, there’s no doubt they will welcome back their talisman with open arms when powerhouses India and Australia visit from early next year.
The Proteas also play an inaugural day-night four-day Test against Zimbabwe from Boxing Day at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth.
He certainly is showing the type of form – and more importantly the fitness required for Test cricket – at the Recreation Ground this week.
There have been no signs of the back spasms that Philander struggled with on the England tour, and he bowled 20 overs in the Dolphins first innings.
It took Philander only four balls within those 20 overs to leave his mark when he made an early breakthrough for the Cobras, before picking up three more wickets to finish with 4/25 – an economy rate of just 1.25 runs per over.
And just like Philander has been doing regularly for the Proteas in Test cricket of late, he contributed heavily with the bat as well.
He stroked a solid 80 off 161 balls (7x4) to power the Cobras to 429 all out, which helped the home side take a 102-run first-innings lead on Wednesday.
However, Philander’s work was not done for the day yet, as he once again trapped Dolphins opener Senuran Muthusamy lbw.
The visitors, though, managed to recover from the early setback to move to 130/1, with veterans Morné van Wyk (60 not out) and Vaughn van Jaarsveld (62 not out) keeping “the Ravensmead Wrecker” at bay.
“Vernon is looking like Vernon. Pure class, doing what he does best. He’s not ever going to be express… he doesn’t need to be… he bowls at around 130km/h and hits his line and lengths that trouble even the best batsmen in the world at the highest level, let alone franchise level,” explained Prince.
“He’s a world-class bowler, averages 22 in Test cricket, and he showed again this week that he’s ready to return to Test cricket.”