Philander eyes South Africa comeback as return gathers pace –

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Vernon Philander has had an extended period on the sidelines © Associated Press

Vernon Philander made a successful return to franchise cricket after more than four months out of action and is targeting more competitive action over the South African winter in the hope of an international recall.

Philander, who tore ankle ligaments during South Africa’s Test tour of India in November, played a club match earlier this month followed by an outing for Western Province in the three-day amateur competition below franchise level and will be available for the end of Cape Cobras’ domestic season before searching for a county offer.

“The plan is for Vernon to play the two first-class matches at home and then maybe look to go over to the UK for a period of time to play there,” Arthur Turner, Philander’s agent told ESPNcricinfo. “He wants to make sure he gets game time.”

On his comeback for Cobras against Dolphins, Philander seemed his old self: miserly and menacing under some morning cloud. He shared the new ball with Wayne Parnell, who overshadowed him with a seven-wicket haul, but Philander helped apply the pressure. He claimed the second wicket, that of Dolphins’ captain Imran Khan, and bowled 11 overs at an economy of 1.81, the lowest on the day to remind South Africa of the discipline they have lacked.

At the recent World T20, South Africa’s bowlers leaked extras and conceded 36 runs in wides. His only T20Is came back in 2007 so a return in that format would appear unlikely, but he may be considered for South Africa’s next assignment, an ODI tri-series in the West Indies in June which also includes Australia.

Philander has been part of South Africa’s one-day plans as recently as the 2015 World Cup and Turner said he is “hopeful of being picked again in the near future.” If Philander is overlooked for the trip to the West Indies he would almost certainly come into contention for the home August Tests against New Zealand and will want to have overs under the belt before then.

With no IPL or CPL deal, Philander’s best chance of playing will be on the county circuit, where he most recently represented Nottinghamshire in the 2015 season but Turner said he will not rule out any other playing possibilities. “If something comes up somewhere, Vernon will definitely consider it because he wants to play now that he is fit. He worked very hard to get himself back to playing. He always knew that the injury would heal but it took longer than expected,” Turner said.

When Philander was injured in November, it was estimated he would recover by mid-January in time to play in two of the Tests against England. But Philander did not play any cricket until two months after that and Turner said, “once the international season was over and he could see he wasn’t going to play, he gave it as much time as he could to make sure there will no problems in future.”

South Africa were also without Dale Steyn for six of the eight Tests against India and England, and the combined loss of bowling experience was one of the reasons Russell Domingo cited as one of the reasons for their back to back series defeats. “We probably didn’t have the strike power that we wanted with a few injuries with guys like Dale and Vernon not playing. That was a big loss,” Domingo said.

That does not mean Philander will be able to walk back into the Test XI. In his absence, 20-year-old quick Kagiso Rabada emerged and South Africa will now need to look at which quicks they want to use in which format.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

Philander eyes South Africa comeback as return gathers pace –