Can Philander take Sussex attack to a new level?

Vernon Philander
Vernon Philander
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Sussex unleash a new-ball pair with more than 1,000 first-class wickets between them when they start their Specsavers County Championship season on Good Friday.

The evergreen Steve Magoffin starts his seventh year at Hove and will share the new ball with arguably the best overseas bowler the county has recruited since Mushtaq Ahmed – Vernon Philander.

The 31-year-old has arrived for a six-week stint fresh from helping South Africa win three series during the winter, including one in Australia.

Philander is raring to go against Kent at the 1st Central County Ground over Easter, having arrived earlier this week and met up with some familiar faces in compatriots Stiaan van Zyl and David Wiese.

“I know Stiaan really well,” said Philander. “He was my first room-mate when I started playing as a professional and, of course, we’ve played for South Africa together. The same applies to Dave. There has always been good camaraderie between us and hopefully we can use our experience and quality to help Sussex.”

Magoffin, who has taken 50 wickets in each of his six seasons at Hove, is delighted to have such a high-class operator with him at the other end. Sussex’s young seamers came of age last season but it was Magoffin who often had to shoulder the twin responsibilities of taking wickets and keeping the run rate in check on his own.

“For someone who came to Test cricket quite late (26) Vernon’s stats are phenomenal and puts him right up there among the best bowlers of recent times,” said Magoffin.

“He’s going to play six Championship games for us and is more than capable of helping us get into a strong position during that time. It’s tremendous from a personal point of view to have someone of his experience playing alongside me.”

Philander is keen to help Sussex’s youngsters Jofra Archer, Stuart Whittingham and George Garton continue to mature but he’s also anxious to get his hands on a Dukes ball as well.

“I have played with five different counties in England and at each one I learned new skills,” he said. “The Dukes ball tends to do a bit more and although the sun is out at the moment it’s still pretty fresh which suggests there will be some moisture around and the wickets will do more.

“I had a great winter with South Africa and beating Australia was a spectacular achievement I will always cherish. I love doing what I do and now my focus is on Sussex. I’m very excited to get going against Kent.”

Magoffin admits Philander’s presence, early in the season at least, means he might not be able to take his place for granted anymore. “The youngsters might give me some friendly stick about being old but I just tell them I’ll keep taking wickets no matter how old I am!” he said.

“The youngsters are desperately keen to improve and play so there is some serious competition for places in the team. You want that and I know I’ve got to perform if I want to stay in the side.”

* Kent have further strengthened their bowling options ahead of the trip to Hove by re-signing South Africa paceman Wayne Parnell.

Parnell, 27, who first joined Kent in 2009 as a relatively unknown rookie during the coaching tenure of fellow South African, Graeme Ford, is named in the squad for the tussle with the neighbours.

Kent have also added opening batsman Sean Dickson to the selection mix after his recovery from a minor hamstring strain that forced him to miss the opening match. On-loan Joe Weatherley stood in against Gloucestershire, making assured 30-plus scores in both innings.

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