Wellington: Vernon Philander tore through the New Zealand Black Caps like one of the southerly ‘busters’ for which this venue is well known on the fourth day of the third Test match at Wellington on Monday.
He completed back-to-back six-wicket hauls to become the fourth South African to achieve this statistic – the others being Syd Pegler, Hugh Tayfield and Makhaya Ntini – to enable the Proteas take a lead of 199 in the first innings.
It was not quite enough to allow Graeme Smith to enforce the follow on but there was no let-up for the Black Caps as Smith and Alviro Petersen shared an unbroken stand of 75 in only 15 overs when the Proteas batted again.
The lead of 274 is only one run shy of New Zealand’s first innings total. To make matters worse for the home side, their captain and leading batsman, Ross Taylor, retired hurt in the first innings with a broken bone in his hand and seems unlikely to participate further in the match.
As he did in the first Test at Dunedin, Smith is likely to take the weather into account in timing his declaration and will want as many of the 98 remaining overs as possible to complete a positive result.
The day, however, belonged to Philander. Not only did he take six wickets for the second Test match innings in a row, he also became the joint second fastest bowler of all time to take 50 Test wickets. He is the quickest for more than a century and has certainly had to achieve success on better batting surfaces than would have been the case in the 19th century.
He has now played Test cricket for just 138 days which draws an interesting comparison with Rodney Hogg of Australia (118 days) who is the only bowler to achieve the feat in a shorter length of time rather than Tests.
His tally of six ‘fifers’ is also the best for a player’s first seven Test matches since 1896. The more recent legends include the England duo of Ian Botham and Sydney Barnes who took five each in their first seven Tests.
Philander has an average of 13.58 for his 51 wickets. He has also become the leading wicket-taker in the world this year with 27 dismissals in three-and-a-half matches.
There were a couple of other important landmarks for the Proteas on the day. Alviro Petersen took his career average into the 40s. He is also the third leading runs scorer in the world this year behind Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting of Australia with 370 runs at 61.6.
AB de Villiers effected his 100th Test match dismissal when he caught Mark Gillespie at the end of the New Zealand innings. He has made 89 of those dismissals as a fielder.