'Big Vern' at No 7 for Proteas?

Vernon Philander (Gallo)
Vernon Philander (Gallo)

Cape Town - Vernon Philander says he would be more than comfortable batting at No 7 for the Proteas in the first Test against India in Cape Town on Friday. 

READ: Philander: We're not playing against 'names'

With the wicket at Newlands expected to be seam-friendly, at least initially, much of the discussion this week has centred around how the Proteas will set up for the match. 

Kagiso Rabada, Morne Morkel and Philander are guaranteed to play while it is almost certain that the South African management will want to go into the clash with the security that comes with the services of spinner Keshav Maharaj. 

One of the big calls, though, will be whether to play Dale Steyn as a fourth specialist fast bowler or to go for a genuine allrounder in one of Chris Morris or Andile Phehlukwayo. 

If the decision is taken to back Steyn and go the first route, then Philander emerges as the most likely to come in at No 7. 

On a wicket where batsmen are expected to struggle against the new ball, and with India boasting arguably their best ever pace attack on these shores, that could be a crucial batting position. 

Philander, though, has long been considered a genuine allrounder in Proteas circles and he is not a novice at No 7. 

In his 47-Test career, the 32-year-old has come to the wicket at No 7 eight times. 

He averages just 18.14 from those knocks, with his best performance coming this year against England in Nottingham in the form of a well-played 54. 

Overall, Philander averages 25.44 with the bat in Test cricket, but he does back himself to do the job if he finds himself promoted up the order. 

"I would love to bat at No 7," Philander said at a Newlands press conference on Wednesday.

"It gives me a bit more responsibility and also a bit more time to bat with some of the top order batters. The selectors will have to make that call and hopefully they make the right one."

One thing Philander does have on his side is that he knows this Newlands wicket better than most, having been based here for his entire professional career. 

While most are getting excited at how green the strip is looking at this stage of the week and how much bounce it promises to offer the seamers, 'Big Vern' has seen it all before. 

"You’re probably going to get nicked off more than bounced out here," he said.

"I’ve played my whole life here and I’ve seen similar wickets that haven’t done much. There is a little bit of grass there, but I don’t think it’s going to scare anyone away."

Philander is currently No 5 on the ICC Test allrounder rankings behind Shakib Al Hasan, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ben Stokes. 

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