Philander should be considered as a candidate in one-dayers

2012-12-17 00:00

IS Vernon Philander being pigeon-holed too rigidly as a Test cricketer only, as far as South Africa are concerned?

That is a thought that may have crossed some critics’ minds again after watching his performance for the Cape Cobras in the abandoned One-day Cup final against the Highveld Lions at the Wanderers on Saturday.

The trophy was shared after two attempts to play the showpiece were thwarted by sometimes deluging Highveld rain.

But the second game at least produced rather more cricket than Friday’s first, with the host team completing their full 50 overs for a total of 241 for seven on a quirky track and the Cobras reaching 69 for two at a forceful rate in reply before the elements conspired to wreck a promisingly set contest.

The Lions innings had petered out to a significant degree after a powerful start, thanks in no small measure to the productive, resourceful seam bowling of Rory Kleinveldt and the occasional bodily harm venom of Dale Steyn.

But perhaps the Proteas-capped player to most effectively put the brakes on was Vernon Philander, who incredibly only got his game — well, both games — because of veteran all-rounder Justin Kemp’s iffy hamstring.

While it is true that the wily, suffocating medium-pace fare of veteran Kemp has become a key part of the Cobras’ arsenal in the limited-overs game even as his batting has faded substantially, it still seems near inexplicable that Philander cannot always crack a one-day gig for his franchise, never mind the Proteas.

After all, the 27-year-old’s glittering achievements with the ball in his first 12 Test matches (67 wickets at 17,98) will certainly have many enthusiasts around the world bemused that he is not currently in the Proteas’ T20 or ODI plans.

Admittedly the Bullring track for Saturday’s match made batting precarious at times through its two-paced characteristic and uneven bounce, but Philander was comfortably the pick of the Cobras pacemen from an economy point of view, conceding only two fours in his “maximum” stint of 10 overs at a cost of just 34 runs.

The bustling right-arm customer also had the rare, outstanding distinction of leaking a mere one run in the last over of the Lions knock, even though they had some wickets in hand.

It did make you wonder whether Philander’s ability to land the ball on a tickey while generating movement either way could yet be better employed in the limited-overs international environment.

He has played only eight ODIs and seven T20 internationals previously, and most of those appearances came some five or six years ago, well before he burst onto the Test scene so spectacularly.

His ODI debut saw him register rosy figures of four for 12 against minnows Ireland in Belfast (2007), but he then seemed to be a scapegoat in 2008 when the Proteas had a disastrous, lethargic one-day series in England not long after a landmark Test series victory in which he had, obviously, played no part.

Philander took some tap in successive matches at Leeds and Lord’s, going for 80 runs in 13 overs and wicket-less across those contests, but the entire series was a forgettable one for many Proteas players, still dining out on the triumph in the Tests.

There have been some arguments more recently that perhaps Philander is best cottonwoolled as a Test specialist, keeping him fresh and hungry for matches in that format, although that is a dubious theory: many cricketers globally only confirm, following Test prowess, that they can be equally formidable in the one-day arena, and the other way around.

It is also whispered that because he is not of outright express pace, Philander may be vulnerable to batsmen two-stepping down the track and driving him lustily on particularly plumb pitches tailor-made for limited-overs activity.

But that was a risk also associated with a South African great like Shaun Pollock in his later years, when he surrendered some of the gas he had possessed in the earliest phase of his broad international career, but remained a canny customer who could keep a very good lid on scoring in the first 12-14 overs of the opposition innings.

Certainly as a classical seamer in the truest sense of the word, Philander ought at the very least to be considered as a horses-for-courses candidate in one-dayers — for instance in games in South African conditions where the ball is noted for jagging around a bit, especially at night at the coastal venues where pitches traditionally “juice up” a tad under floodlights.

And at the very least, Philander — who has also been reconfirming his ability with the bat in recent months — may start to challenge a fellow bowling all-rounder like Wayne Parnell, who is fairly fortunate to have kept a place in the Proteas’ T20 squad announced earlier this week to take on the visiting New Zealanders shortly.

LATEST: Knights all-rounder Ryan McLaren has been called up to the Protea’s T20 squad, replacing Parnell, who has a wrist injury which has sidelined him for two weeks.

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