Vernon Philander will call time on his career after the series against England and has proven to himself and his doubters that he was more than good enough to play Test cricket.
A section of supporters and pundits questioned the decision to call up Philander for the short series against Australia in 2011. The decision was based on a careful survey conducted by coach Gary Kirsten, though, and it paid off.
Philander rejuvenated the attack and gave South Africa the elusive ‘something different’ their pace attack seemed to crave for years. It took him just seven Tests to take 50 wickets, and we saw Philander in his element for the first time.
He never really cut the perfect image of the modern cricketer, but Philander found a way to play the game that suited him and made himself into one of the toughest bowlers to face in the modern game.
Philander was one part of one of the greatest ever Proteas bowling attacks, playing alongside Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Kagiso Rabada, but amid those stars, he often shone the brightest.
In his 60 Tests to date he has taken 216 wickets. He started his career against Australia and put in some of his best performances against the Proteas’ biggest rivals. Philander claimed 53 Aussie scalps in 14 Tests. Nine of his 13 five-wicket hauls came on home soil, with his knowledge of South Africa’s Test venues unparalleled.
Philander started his Test career as a specialist bowler, but slowly but surely he built himself into an all-rounder, proving himself to be a resolute if somewhat unorthodox batsman.
The seamer didn’t bowl with express pace, but mastered the art of placing the ball in great areas on most surfaces and consistently got movement off the seam.
Philander is undoubtedly one of the greatest exponents of seam bowling to ever play the game for the Proteas, but he could be a frustrating man for his skippers.
Questions about his commitment have dogged the latter stages of the 34-year-old’s career, though he has hit back at his critics who include former skipper and new director of cricket Graeme Smith.
In 2018 he landed himself in hot water during the ill-tempered series against Australia. Philander’s Twitter account posted a tweet that sharply criticised Steve Smith for trying to get Kagiso Rabada banned over improper contact. He later claimed that his account was hacked.
Philander nonetheless ends his career as one of the greats of South African cricket, eight years after he had severe doubts about his ability on the eve of his Test debut.
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