Andile Phehlukwayo was considered to have only an outside chance of playing in this Test. As a bowling allrounder whose speeds peak in the mid-130s but who does not move the ball with the same magic as Vernon Philander, and whose long-format batting average has only peeped over 20, Phehlukwayo could easily have been confined to the shorter formats, where his ability to take pace of the ball, his death bowling and hard-hitting have proved to be match-winners.
But when the South Africa summer started and the squad had none of Dale Steyn, Lungi Ngidi or Chris Morris available, Phehlukwayo made his debut against Bangladesh. He played both Tests in that series and the one against Zimbabwe; but when India arrived, the big guns were brought out and Phehlukwayo was confined to drinks duty. In the lead-up to the Wanderers match, he only emerged as a contender when it was revealed that Chris Morris would need the week off on paternity leave.
Instead of wondering when he his turn would come, Phehlukwayo used the time on the sidelines to get ready for a return by watching his team-mates’ success.
“Being on the sidelines, you’ve got to keep yourself motivated. It’s such a good environment that you want to perform. I’ve kept myself motivated by watching the performance of the guys, learning about myself and the game. At a young age, I have been able to learn so much,” Phehlukwayo said.
One of the bowlers Phehlukwayo has taken the most from is Philander, who bowls a similar pace as him but makes the ball talk, almost every time. Phehlukwayo was particularly in awe of Philander’s opening spell of eight overs, seven maidens, one run and one wicket, and wants to be able to emulate that. “Vernon showed his class again. Being on the field with him was unbelievable. When I watch him bowl, I get goosebumps,” Phehlukwayo said. “To imagine how consistent he can be on a length: I really look up to the type of bowler like that.”
Another player Phehlukwayo admires is Ngidi, who he grew up playing against. Both Phehlukwayo and Ngidi are the children of domestic workers and both have enjoyed enormous success, both on the field and in uplifting their families and inspiring their communities.
“When I watch Lungi and his parents at the game, it reminds me a lot of how we grew up. I’m really proud to see him. I am planning on bringing my parents to a few games too,” Phehlukwayo said.
Ngidi flew his parents to Johannesburg for this Test and tweeted a photograph of them enjoying their first night in a hotel room on the eve of the match. Ngidi’s parents were in attendance on the first day and were spotted on television several times. Perhaps soon, Phehlukwayo’s parents will join them.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.