South Africa fast bowler Vernon Philander will miss South Africa’s next match, against West Indies on February 27, and is in doubt for their game against Ireland next Tuesday after being diagnosed with a Grade 1 hamstring strain. Philander sustained the injury on Sunday, during the clash against India at the MCG, when he bowled just four overs and was off the field for most of the Indian innings. Although he returned to bat later in the game, an MRI scan on Monday revealed the extent of the damage.
Philander has been prescribed a recovery period of between a week and 10 days, which will mean South Africa will definitely seek a replacement quick for the West Indies game, but the management remains hopeful he will be able to play against Ireland. “We have to give him every opportunity to make sure that he can be available. At the same time we don’t want to be foolish by taking short-cuts. If he passes all the fitness tests and is symptom free going into the Ireland game he may play but at this stage it is too early to tell,” Mohammed Moosajee, the team’s manager said.
This is the second time in six months that Philander has been sidelined with the same problem. He was also ruled out of the triangular series between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Australia with a hamstring niggle but recovered in time for the West Indies series at home.
The recurrence of the injury is South Africa’s most serious concern since the start of the tournament, after Quinton de Kock won the race against time to recover from an ankle ligament tear, Farhaan Behardien had a back problem and missed the second warm-up match and Dale Steyn suffered a bout of sinus, which kept him out of a training session. Philander’s hamstring was a concern before the match against India, when he received treatment for stiffness. He was also seen doing shuttle runs at training.
His unavailability leaves South Africa without a frontline quick and affects the balance of their side. They have two reserve seamers in Wayne Parnell and Kyle Abbott, who will compete for Philander’s spot. Parnell was expensive and erratic in the India game and may make way for Abbott, who has not had a game so far, while South Africa will also bring in an extra batsman to ensure their batting depth is not disturbed. Behardien sat out against India but could make his way back to the No. 7 position or South Africa may look to Rilee Rossouw.
While the composition of the XI will be debated, South Africa will not see the need for panic just yet. The match which was talked up as the biggest test of their group – against India – is over and they have had recent success against West Indies, albeit with an out of form Chris Gayle in home conditions. If they were going to experiment with their combinations, they may have wanted to do that against West Indies anyway, so Philander’s injury may present the opportunity they were looking for.