When wickets fall in droves on a given day at Newlands, you can be sure Vernon Philander is at the heart of it.
The Proteas’ stocky but skillful seamer on Monday ended with career-best figures of 6/42 as he bowled his side to a 72-run victory in the first Test against India.
His success came against the backdrop of talk leading up to the game that the pitch could deliver similar results to 2011’s freakish match against Australia, where 23 wickets fell on one day.
Philander, on debut, then took 3/63 and 5/21 as the Aussies were shot out for 47.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic this time round though 18 wickets still fell for just 200 runs.
There might be suggestions that the surface could come under the attention of the International Cricket Council but it’s unlikely that it will be labelled as poor.
In fact, this was merely a competitive wicket where batsmen had to slug it out despite never really feeling in.
After the Proteas batting slumped badly in their second innings to be shot out for 130, there were jitters that India might reach the target of 207.
With Dale Steyn missing through his heel problem, which will keep him out for 4-6 weeks, South Africa needed their three other seamers to shoulder a heavier load.
Philander gleefully accepted.
Keeping things simple as always, the 32-year-old was captain Faf du Plessis’ go-to guy and ripped the heart out of India’s batting order.
Philander’s patience with opener Murali Vijay (13) paid off as his nagging line outside off finally delivered an edge but it was his key dismissals of Virat Kohli (28) and Rohit Sharma (10) that drove the Proteas.
Kohli missed a straight one after going across his stumps while Sharma loosely played a back foot poke onto his stumps.
He was brilliantly supported by Morne Morkel (2/39) and Kagiso Rabada (2/41) before a competent eighth-wicket stand between Ravi Ashwin (37) and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (13*) illustrated again that a bit of application on the pitch can be rewarded.
However, Philander came roaring back to clean up the tail, starting with the scalp of Ashwin when Quinton de Kock went up to the stumps and induced an edge.
India’s collapse shouldn’t detract from their excellent bowling effort
In undoubtedly helpful conditions, the duo of Mohammed Shami (3/28) and Jasprit Bumrah (3/39) gained seam movement and bowled perfect lengths as South Africa simply had no answer.
Perhaps the biggest feather in India’s cap is that they weren’t assisted by a home side that batted poorly.
The visitors made their own luck.
It was the Proteas’ second lowest Test total at home against the Indians and a memorable day behind the stumps for keeper Wriddhiman Saha, whose 10 dismissals is an Indian Test record.