South Africa's Vernon Philander was at his relentless best as he ripped New Zealand apart, says Rob Key
Last Updated: 02/01/13 4:39pm
South African seamer Vernon Philander was at his relentless best as he helped himself to devastating figures of 5-7 from six overs against hapless New Zealand on the opening morning of the first Test, according to Rob Key.
Philander, 27, tore through the top-order to send the Black Caps crashing to 45 all out at Newlands - the third lowest score in New Zealand's Test history.
The innings lasted just 19.2 overs after Philander registered the fourth-fastest five-for to be recorded in Test history, the right-armer needing just 20 deliveries to complete the task under cloudless skies.
In reply, South Africa reached 252-3 before stumps - a lead of 207 - with Jacques Kallis (60) becoming only the fourth cricketer to pass 13,000 career Test runs.
"New Zealand were just outclassed by very good bowling. The question that will remain in Brendon McCullum's mind is 'should I have batted?'."
Reflecting on New Zealand's disintegration, former England batsman Key told Sky Sports: "Philander's one of the best in the world, if not the best in the world in these helpful conditions.
"He's going to make you play every ball and ask the question. He's going to seam the ball in and out, plus he gets a little bit of swing at times. He's as hard as anyone in the world to play at the moment.
"He's got a great action - he's relentless in his line and length, which makes him really hard to play. To bowlers of that pace you have to change something, because you know they are going to be immaculate in their length more than anything else.
"You've got to come out of your ground and perhaps come across your stumps as well because Philander makes it really hard for you to decide whether to play or leave.
"So you almost say to him 'I know you're going to do that, but I'd rather you bowled every ball straight to me' so you come out of your ground almost on to off-stump; that almost takes lbw out of it and if he then changes to bowl short, then you'd take that."
New Zealand escaped the ignominy of posting their lowest ever Test score, eclipsing the 26 they made against England in Auckland in 1955 and the total of 42 they scored against Australia in Wellington.
However Key's fellow Sky Sports pundit Jeremy Coney, who played 52 Tests for the Black Caps, said it's clear that New Zealand's batsmen must re-think their approach against South Africa's high-quality attack.
"I think we should highlight how good this seam bowling is," reflected Coney. "They are always at you and you're not sure whether it's going to come in from outside off, or move away further from outside. There's a little bit of variation in bounce and it looks like a pitch that suits seam.
"New Zealand were just outclassed by very good bowling. The question that will remain in McCullum's mind is 'should I have batted?'.
"With the differential between the two sides maybe if there is going to be anything in the pitch, it will be on the first morning.
"Philander had such good rhythm; every time we saw a wicket and we saw where his foot was always landing, it was always in the same place.
"As a batsman you've got to ask 'where is Philander likely to get me out' and at least try to cover that. The ball moving away around about the off-stump seems to be the way - but then there's the one that goes the other way and that's the difficult one.
"To my mind you've got to rule out one of those two options and the easier one to rule out is trying to take the edge out of play and then by moving up the pitch you are almost taking the lbw out of play too.
"Philander doesn't have brilliant pace - which is why he doesn't catch the eye as much as the bounce bowler - but he does have quiet subtlety; he gets you out nicely and quietly. That's what impresses me about him. He's quick enough to beat the defensive stroke before the adjustment begins."
Philander's firepower was supplemented by Morne Morkel (3-14) and Dale Steyn, who bagged a brace to match New Zealand legend Sir Richard Hadlee and West Indies seam-master Malcom Marshall by reaching the 300 wicket mark in only his 61st Test.
Only two bowlers have achieved the feat in fewer Tests - Australian paceman Dennis Lillee (56) and Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muraliatharan (58).
"Steyn bowls faster than Hadlee but he's got to that figure at the same speed - and the same as Malcom Marshall as well, who was a lovely bowler," said Coney.
"Steyn is a serious, serious bowler and he's now got the ability - as the West Indies used to have - of suddenly taking an opportunity in the game and suddenly the game shifts up a couple of cogs as well."
Kallis, 37, completed a near-perfect day for South Africa by taking his overall Test run tally past 13,000 in his 159th Test as the home side built a commanding first-innings lead.
The all-rounder - who has also taken 282 Test wickets - has now racked up 13,040 runs at an average of 56.94 with 44 tons and 57 fifties to his name. Only India's Sachin Tendulkar (15,645 runs and 51 hundreds), Australia's Ricky Ponting (13,378 and 41) and Rahul Dravid (13,288 and 36), also of India, have scored more.
"Kallis is an exceptional cricketer," said Key, "and he deserves to be up there because he's one of the best."
Coney added: "He might be able to catch Tendulkar in terms of hundreds - he needs to get seven more. He might just do that.
"I don't know how many years he wants to keep playing; he seems to be durable. He's got 282 Test wickets in addition to that. None of those three ahead of him have got figures like that and he's not a bad catcher either; he's a pretty accurate slipper."