England captain Joe Root speaks to journalists during a press conference ahead of the second Test against South Africa at Newlands. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

CAPE TOWN – Vernon Philander has a way of creeping into the minds of even the very best batsmen.

His accuracy and skill are an examination of the highest level. India’s Murali Vijay went charging down the wicket to unsettle Philander’s immaculate and length. Australia’s Cameron Bancroft followed a similar path, and now England captain Joe Root has attempted a similar plan of action.

All three have failed dismally in their attempts with Philander simply adjusting his length to counter any pre-mediated plans. Root, particularly, fell foul to this method when he was caught behind at SuperSport Park in the first Test trying to attack Philander.

The England skipper is a vital cog in the tourists batting line-up and they desperately require their skipper to contribute significantly in the second Test starting at Newlands today.

Root will, though, have to find a way to combat Philander’s skill, particularly with the new ball if he is to get among the runs.

“I think you give that responsibility to the individual,” Root said about formulating a plan. “Nobody knows my game better than me. And I will have my own way of combatting Vernon. He is a world-class performer. He knows the conditions well. He has played his whole career here. He is a great player, he has proven wherever he goes he can be real threat. Individually you have to find a way to combat that. There is no one way to play.”

But what makes Philander such a phenomenal bowler, particular as he does not deliver the new ball in excess of 140km/h?

“He asks good questions of your defence. He doesn’t give you many chances to score. But we showed later in the game, in the second innings, that you get a few more opportunities if you can take him deep,” Root said.

“That will be our challenge to put overs into their bowlers, taken them as deep as we can, especially in the first innings and reaping the rewards later. I suppose you have to take your chances when you can and then keep out the good stuff.”  

Root may be encouraged by the fact that Newlands may not have its traditional spicy start on Friday. Although there was a fair covering of grass on Thursday afternoon, the pitch is expected to dry out and produce plenty of runs with it hopefully taking spin as the match progresses.


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