Wiaan Mulder’s return to international cricket is providing a promising edge to the Proteas’ bowling attack, writes ANDRE HUISAMEN.
Playing in only his third Test match, Mulder is showing signs of a bowling all-rounder destined to have a profound impact on the team environment.
More specifically, Mulder is looking to slip into a very similar role the great Vernon Philander had during his Test career.
In Sunday’s spell shortly before lunch on day one of the second Test against Sri Lanka, Mulder hit consistent line and length to spark the visitors’ big batting collapse.
The Proteas bowlers had the Sri Lankans on the ropes and are perfectly poised to pile on further misery when play resumes on Monday.
Mulder, as he did in the Centurion Test, got the ball to move around a bit and, despite having to bowl to both right- and left-handed batsmen, remained on the money with his deliveries.
Three quick wickets swung the tide in the South Africans’ favour. The wicket of Kusal Mendis especially caught the eye of Proteas fans, Mulder pitching it up on a perfect length with the slightest swing off the seam.
The delivery was reminiscent of a trademark Philander wicket against right-handers, which ultimately made him one of the best bowlers in the world.
Of course, Mulder still has a long way to go to be regarded as the next Philander or to be placed in that bracket as a fast bowler. But, the signs are definitely there of a young, talented, but, more importantly, committed player.
He is effective when called upon and has the potential to make important breakthroughs.
In his post-match media conference on Sunday, Anrich Nortje, who was the pick of the bowlers, praised Mulder for his influence on day one.
Nortje spoke about how important bowling partnerships are in Test cricket, specifically for the quicks in the team.
Mulder’s ability to provide that sort of pressure at a crucial stage in the innings put the whole Sri Lanka batting unit under pressure.
And, it provided the likes of Nortje with the opportunity to strike from the other end to deliver the knockout blow.
It will undoubtedly take some time for Mulder to settle as the new Proteas all-rounder and he will have to prove himself against tougher opposition. Test series against Pakistan and Australia will provide that ultimate test for the 22-year-old.
But, the mature way in which Mulder goes about his business is highly encouraging from a South African point of view and raises hope for the future.
Bowling variations and different options will be of the utmost importance for this Proteas bowling unit in terms of its cohesive development.
Without being over-optimistic, Mulder’s influence in that growth could prove to be the ultimate difference in the Proteas presenting a feared bowling attack once again.