Vernon Philander has been ruled out of the second Test against New Zealand with a recurring hamstring injury and will be replaced by Rory Kleinveldt.
The injury nearly kept the Sultan of Swing out of the first Test against New Zealand, and he had to leave the field on the third day after pulling up yet again. He sustained the injury while playing for his domestic franchise, the Cobras, in a four-day game ahead of the first Test.
He was passed fit, though, and was his usual destructive self against the Black Caps. However, the injury is back and South African team management feels that resting him is the best course of action.
“Vernon’s hamstring strain will require a seven- to 10-day recovery period at the very least. Although he is responding to treatment received over the past few days, we feel it’s unlikely that he’ll recover in time for this week’s Test match in Port Elizabeth. Besides, with the Pakistan series less than a month away, it’s not worth the risk of aggravating the injury,” Doctor Mohammed Moosajee, the Proteas’ team manager, said.
While Kleinveldt’s debut in Australia was rather forgettable, he showed some good resolve in the T20 series against New Zealand. The two formats are worlds apart, but Kleinveldt is a determined player who knows what is expected of him. Up and down has been the Kleinveldt way since he started playing cricket.
During the 2002-03 season, Kleinveld was cast into the deep waters of franchise cricket following his stint with the South African Under 19 team, who made the final of the 2002 edition of the competition. He made his debut for Western Province on 18 October 2002, but it was a rather forgettable affair. He took just one wicket in the first innings, bowled eight no balls and conceded 71 runs. The second innings was somewhat better: he bowled 14 overs for 30, but went wicketless. As a result, he was relegated to the Province’s B side.
He returned to first team action in 2004 and became a regular to the starting XI, finishing off the season with 22 wickets. He continued to perform consistently after that and despite another forgettable debut for the Proteas T20 side, Kleinveldt never gave up. His T20 debut was atrocious – he bowled just one over which went for 20 runs – and despite picking up a wicket, it was the end of his international prospects for quite some time.
Such has been the theme of Kleinveldt’s career: up and down and to and fro, and he now has a chance to move forward again when South Africa takes on New Zealand in the second Test at St. George’s on Friday.
He’s quite familiar with his teammates, though. Kleinveldt has played with Philander at the Cobras franchise for a long time and Robin Peterson, who is originally from the Eastern Cape, has also spent the last two years watching Kleinveldt grow.
While Peterson concedes that Philander being ruled out is a big blow, he has faith in his Cobras comrade and expects him to step up to the challenge.
“Maybe I’ll get to bowl in the first innings for a change,” Peterson joked.
“It’s a huge blow. Philander has been a stalwart of the attack, and he’s a critical part of the bowling unit, but Rory has stepped up to the plate when the opportunity presented itself. He has bowled in tandem with Philander for a long time. They feed off each other’s performances; I’m expecting a big performance from Rory in this game.”
New Zealand was embarrassed in the first innings at Newlands as they were dismantled for 45 and while, on paper, it might seem like South Africa could expect more of the same, Peterson says there will be no taking it easy.
“New Zealand put up a bit of a fight in the second innings and that’s the nature of the Kiwis. For what they might have lacked in the player pool, they make up for with determination and guts. The conditions at St. George’s probably mean the game will go the distance instead of what happened at Newlands. I’m expecting the Kiwis to be a bit more at home here than anywhere else in the country,” Peterson said.
For South Africa, a series win is the only priority, and while some other nuances like Kleinveldt’s third chance will always infiltrate the storyline, all eyes will be on the Proteas and whether they can find that killer instinct – you know, the one where they dismantle opposition and offer them no resolve, instead of simply expecting things to come their way or hoping for a hero or two to dig them out of a hole.
It might just be the Black Caps, but there’s some pressure – something which has caused the Proteas to stumble in the past.
Their eyes will, however, undoubtedly be on the prize – a series whitewash and another notch in their unbeaten belt, which could stretch to 13 months with a win in Port Elizabeth. DM
Photo: South Africa’s Vernon Philander watches the ball after bowling during a training session before Thursday’s third cricket test match against England at Lord’s cricket ground in London August 14, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown