Vernon Philander will be kept in hospital overnight on Friday, with a suspected viral infection, and a call will be taken on his availability for the ongoing Oval Test on Saturday morning. Philander was only able to bowl five overs on the second day and spent most of it off the field. As his condition worsened, was sent for tests to ascertain if it was something more serious was causing him to feel unwell.
Philander first experienced symptoms on the morning the match began but was included in XI with the hope it was a minor concern that would improve as the Test progressed. He bowled four overs upfront and then spent time off the field in the morning and afternoon sessions, then returned for spells of five overs and three overs. He was said to be feeling much better on the second morning, and bowled a further five overs, but then suffered a recurrence of the stomach problem and was forced off the field. It was not until the afternoon session that he was taken to hospital and will remain under observation for the night.
South Africa will be desperate for Philander to return as soon as possible, because they need him as much with bat as they will with ball. At 126 for 8, Philander, if passed fit, will be the last man to bat and could prove crucial to avoiding the follow-on. Currently, Morne Morkel is batting with Temba Bavuma, the last recognised specialist batsman.
Philander will also be a key to keeping England in check, should they bat again. The impact of his absence was clear through the second day, when Chris Morris struggled to find rhythm and South Africa had to turn to their spinner Keshav Maharaj earlier than they may have wanted to.
“A guy like Vernon, we know his wicket-taking abilities especially on a wicket like that with grass and assistance,” Neil McKenzie, South Africa’s batting coach said. “Yesterday he went passed the bat on numerous occasions. We miss his control. If you look at his economy rates, it’s not just about wickets – but that control and the economy rate – and I think on that wicket today and yesterday, the economy just shows we didn’t land enough balls in the right areas and ask enough questions.
“Hopefully he’ll be back and we can try and get close to the score – lessen the deficit and then we know how important he is with the ball. If it is going to be overcast tomorrow like the forecasts predict he’s going to be vital for us to get back into this contest.”
Philander has already scored two fifties in the series and was named Man of the Match after South Africa’s win at Trent Bridge. This is his second ailment of the tour, after an ankle injury sustained during a county stint pre-Tests threatened to keep him out of the opener. Philander missed the warm-up match in Worcester but was declared fit to play at Lord’s.