This week has seen the bowlers come the fore in international cricket, mainly thanks to that remarkable Test match in Cape Town between Australia and South Africa that was over in less than three days.
Therefore, it stands to reason that it is a bowler who takes this week’s Cricket World Player of the Week award. Shane Watson starred during South Africa’s dismal first innings total of 96, ending with figures of five for 17, to spark a dramatic collapse to seemingly turn the match in Australia’s favour. However, it was Vernon Philander who turned the match decisively to the home side’s advantage with his second innings bowling spell of five for 15, that was made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was his Test debut, who takes this week’s award.
He helped rout the Australians for just 47 in their second innings with Morne Morkel also chipping in with three for nine to follow Dale Steyn’s haul of four for 55 in the visitors’ first innings.
Philander, born in Bellville in what used to be known as Cape Province, has toiled manfully on South Africa’s domestic circuit for the past few years for the Cape Cobras since his premature promotion to South Africa’s ODI side in 2007. Back then he was quickly discarded as nothing more than a medium-paced trundle who was not cut out for international cricket, but he went away and worked on his game and was the outstanding bowlers in that country’s four-day competition in both the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons.
This excellent domestic form saw him earn a place at the expense of the inconsistent Lonwabo Tsotsobe in South Africa’s Test side and, as we witnessed in Newlands, he is a transformed bowler from the one that made his international debut against Ireland all those years ago.
Away from Cape Town, Shahid Afridi returned from ‘retirement’ with figures of three for 27 to bowl Pakistan to victory in the opening ODI against Sri Lanka in Dubai and R Ashwin took six for 47 on his Test debut in the Caribbean.
Of the batsman, Michael Clarke stands out for his 151 on the difficult Cape Town track, although he did call his knock “a waste of time” in light of the eventual result, while Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla did contribute match-winning centuries to the South Africans’ cause, albeit on a much more placid pitch by that stage in the match.
© Cricket World 2011