Vernon Philander has steered the Proteas to the verge of an innings victory against the West Indies in the first Test at Centurion.
Philander took four wickets in the West Indies’ first innings to reduce the tourists to 201-9. The prolific seamer has already claimed one victim in the West Indies’ second dig, and will have an opportunity to add to this tally on day four.
As it stands, the Proteas have two full days (weather permitting) to claim the West Indies’ remaining eight wickets. In fact, they may need as few as seven, as West Indies bowler Kemar Roach is battling an ankle injury and isn’t expected to bat.
The Proteas dismissed the West Indies shortly after tea on day three, and skipper Hashim Amla didn’t hesitate to enforce the follow-on. Fittingly, it was Philander who made the initial breakthrough, and then Morné Morkel who compounded the Windies’ misery later in the evening.
The West Indies require a further 275 runs. That total won’t win the game, but it will force the Proteas to bat again. Failure to do so will result in South Africa winning by an innings and taking plenty of momentum into the next game at St Georges Park.
The performance by the South Africans on day three, and by Philander in particular, was emphatic. After an indifferent and erratic calendar year that’s yielded few wickets, it’s clear that Philander is back to his metronomic best.
Philander took two wickets in the morning session to seize the initiative. He was similarly destructive in the afternoon session, claiming the important wickets of Shiv Chanderpaul and Jermaine Blackwood, the latter right on the stroke of tea.
The Proteas bowlers deserve credit for their determination. There was a period during the afternoon session when Marlon Samuels and Chanderpaul showed some defiance. This was the partnership that needed to flourish if the West Indies were to get close to South Africa’s first innings total of 552-5 declared. They put on 52 for the fourth wicket, before Samuels chopped a delivery by Morkel onto his stumps.
Chanderpaul was dismissed soon after that, when Philander, South Africa’s most accurate bowler on day three, got the veteran batsmen to edge one to Alviro Petersen at second slip. It was a crucial wicket at a crucial moment of the contest.
While South Africa failed to get it right with all of their reviews, they did enjoyed some luck. Philander was guilty of wasting the Proteas’ first review of the day, as well as their second and final one right after lunch. What many will remember, though, is the review that resulted in the dismissal of West Indies opener Devon Smith in the 22nd over.
Smith played across the line of a straight delivery. The ball went through to the wicketkeeper – AB de Villiers, who was filling in for the injured Quinton de Kock – much to Philander’s excitement.
On-field umpire Billy Bowden stayed his crooked finger, a reaction that prompted Philander to push his captain for a review. Television evidence supported Bowden’s original decision of not out, but Paul Reiffel, the third official tasked with using the technology to review the close calls, had other ideas. Smith was given his marching orders, and the West Indies’ opening stand was broken.
This dismissal provided the spark that South Africa so desperately needed. Initially, the bowling quartet of Dale Steyn, Philander, Morkel, and Kyle Abbott had struggled to trouble Kraigg Brathwaite and Smith. After that first breakthrough, however, a second soon followed. This time, no official confirmation was needed, as Philander induced an edge that had Brathwaite caught at first slip.
While they have had some luck, credit must go to the bowlers’ persistence. Philander and Morkel were rewarded for their accuracy, and it was clear that they grew in confidence as the day progressed. They will be expected to carry that form through to day four and it wouldn’t surprise to see the contest decided by tea.
DAY THREE SCORECARD
SA 1st innings – 552-5 dec (Hashim Amla 208, AB de Villiers 152, Stiaan van Zyl 101no, Kemar Roach 2-52).
WI 1st Innings – 201-9 (Kraigg Brathwaite 34, Devon Smith 35, Vernon Philander 4-29, Morné Morkel 3-55)
WI 2nd Innings (following on) – 76-2 (Leon Johnson 31no, Kraigg Brathwaite 20, Vernon Philander 1-0, Morné Morkel 1-26)
West Indies trail by 275 runs