Cape Town: South Africa’s wrecker-in-chief Vernon Philander said they had planned to keep India skipper Virat Kohli quiet and the hosts executed the plan to perfection during their 72-run win in the first Test.
“Virat is a quality player, and the key thing is to keep him quiet, and make sure that we set him up with the other one. I always knew I had the one coming back!" said Philander, who took a career-best six for 42.
“It was probably two-and-a-half overs of away-swingers and then the one back at him (Kohli). It was definitely a plan to keep him quiet, and also to drag him across to make sure that when you do bowl the other one, he is on the other side of the off-stump."
Asked if he had told anything to Kohli after the dismissal, Philander said: “Nah, I never said anything to him. It was just obviously on the spur of the moment–I just tried to spur my boys on, and that’s what we tend to focus on.
“We knew that Virat was a big wicket to get, and getting him right there and then, I just strived to (enjoy it with) my boys."
With 208 to defend against India, Philander said he knew he had to quickly take the responsibility of spearheading the pace battery and put his team in a good position.
“When you look at the type of score that you have to defend, 208, someone has to make the play. You can’t wait for later in the game–because there might not be a ‘later on in the game’," he said. “I knew that I had to bowl overs upfront and put us in a good position, and I just wanted to bowl and make a difference."
His 12th five-wicket haul in Test cricket also included the prized wicket of Ravichandran Ashwin, who had conjured up hopes of a revival for India with a fighting 37.
The 32-year-old seamer credited his skipper Faf du Plessis for the tactics of having Quinton de Kock standing up to the stumps to get rid of Ashwin. “You have to be open to those suggestions, but I’ll have to give this one to ‘Faffie’," he said. “Ashwin, at the time, was batting quite far out of his crease, and the wicket was a touch on the slow side and the ball was a bit older. I also felt that by pushing him back we could get all three dismissals into play."
Ashwin shared a crucial 49-run eighth wicket stand with Bhuvneshwar Kumar to resurrect India’s second innings after they were reduced to 82 for 7.
Philander said: “You just have to remain calm. We had it in out arsenal to get those last three wickets. The team with the calmer head was going to come out on top.
“Coming out after Tea I was a bit on the stiff side and I had to bowl two or three overs to get myself going. Just before that last over I bowled, ‘Faffie’ was going to bowl Morne, and I said to him, ‘Listen, I’m actually warm now, so just give me one more’. Luckily it paid off."
Philander had to face criticism due to his lack of fitness during the four-match Test against England last year and he said he initially took it ‘personally’ before deciding to work on his fitness.
“I like people to be constructive and open and honest with us as players. There are two ways of taking it - you can take it personally and fade away, or you can take it on board and make a play," he said. “I took it a bit personally up front, you are all obviously human, but you try to get over it as quickly as possible, get better, do some work behind the scenes and come back stronger."