With his six-wicket haul in the third Test match against New Zealand, South African bowler Vernon Philander has taken over fifty wickets in only seven Test matches: the quickest to that feat since—wait for it!—1893. Unlike his bowling partners in the formidable South African unit—Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Marchant de Lange—Philander isn’t express pace and doesn’t get steepling bounce. He’s simply extremely accurate and can move the ball both ways in the air and off the pitch.
It’s unlikely that Philander will be able to maintain this extraordinary run of wicket-taking, since batsmen will eventually figure out how to play him. Nonetheless, his mountainous accomplishment will take some climbing. What’s amazing is that he’s thriving in a unit that features the best fast-bowler in the world (Dale Steyn) and he bowls in situations where he might be expected to take one or two wickets, but not five or six, each innings. If South Africa win this Test match, they will replace England as the best Test team in the world. England (currently in Sri Lanka) will play South Africa at home this summer, in a contest that will be mouthwatering—not least because the English conditions will suit Philander. Lots to look forward to. Here’s Philander in action against Australia: