Vernon Philander has been battling with a stomach bug. Photo: John Cowpland,

LONDON – Proteas seamer Vernon Philander has been taken to hospital after spending most of the second day’s play in the third Test against England at The Oval on Friday off the field.

Philander took 2/17 in 12 overs in between bouts of what was said to be stomach illness on Thursday’s rain-marred first day.

But he only bowled five more overs in Friday’s first session before leaving the field and has yet to return to play.

A team spokeswoman said Philander had been taken to hospital for tests to determine the precise nature of his condition, which now appears to be more serious than initially thought.

The 32-year-old Philander is one of the leading seam bowlers in world cricket, having taken 171 wickets in 46 Tests at an average of 22.14.

He has also become an increasingly effective batsman, with Philander named man-of-the-match for his all-round contribution to South Africa’s 340-run win in the second Test at Trent Bridge that saw the Proteas level this four-match series at 1-1.

Meanwhile, Ben Stokes made a century as England were dismissed for 353 on Friday.

Stokes was last man out for 112, the Durham all-rounder’s fifth Test hundred and second against South Africa.

He went to his century in style when, with just No 11 James Anderson for company, he hoisted left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj for two sixes in as many balls.

The first was ‘caught’ by Faf du Plessis, but the Proteas captain touched the boundary rope as he fell, meaning Stokes had scored a six.

Former England captain Alastair Cook made 88 after current skipper Joe Root won the toss in what is the 100th Test staged at The Oval.

Fast bowler Morné Morkel led South Africa’s attack in Philander’s absence with 3/70 in 28.2 overs.