There was déjà vu at Newlands for Vernon Philander when he took a five-for in New Zealand’s first innings. Just 14 months earlier he did the same on debut against Australia. Michael Clarke’s men were dismissed for 47 while Brendon McCullum’s went two worse and were skittled for 45. The synergy was stark.
Now, there will be more flashbacks for the opening bowler in the lead up to the Port Elizabeth Test. The hamstring injury which kept him in doubt until the day before the Newlands match has recurred and similar uncertainty exists around his fitness for the second contest in the series.
Philander left the field after bowling his final spell of five overs (he bowled 24 in total in New Zealand’s second innings) after he felt stiffness in his left hamstring. “He said he slipped in the footholes and because his left leg is his landing foot in his delivery stride when he stretches too far forward with it, it could affect the area again” Mohammed Moosajee, the South Africa team manager, told ESPNcricinfo.
After play, Philander said he felt the irritation slightly lower down in his left leg than where it was previously and “hoped” it was only stiffness. Moosjaee, though, is concerned that the strain has been aggravated so soon after it had healed. As a result, Philander is back on fitness watch and will be monitored and assessed in the lead up to the second fixture.
A grade one strain of the hamstring usually requires seven to ten days rest. The second Test starts next week Friday, which will give Philander a full week but because the latest niggle has occurred directly off the back of a previous one, the recovery time may be lengthened as a precaution.
“With Tests so close together, management may not want to risk playing Vernon but we also don’t want to take a call too early,” Moosajee said. “What we don’t want it is for it become three strains in three weeks then he is out for a month.”
Philander suffers from a chronic hamstring condition which would mean that if it is injured again, he could need even more time out of the game. With the Pakistan series to come, South Africa want him available so leaving him out of the Port Elizabeth match may prove the sensible option.
Rory Kleinveldt, Philander’s new-ball partner at Cape Cobras and the reserve bowler in the national squad, is likely to play if Philander is ruled. Kleinveldt had a forgettable debut in Brisbane on the recent tour to Australia but came back well in his second Test in Adelaide, where he stood in for Philander whose back had seized up. He has yet to play a Test at home.