JOFRA ARCHER found himself in the middle of a beamer row after South Africa’s Vernon Philander suggested that the England seamer should have been removed from the attack on day two of the Boxing Day Test.
Archer was bowling to nightwatchman Anrich Nortje late on a difficult second day for the tourists in Centurion – they closed 175 behind with six second-innings wickets still to take after being bowled out for 181 – when he sent down successive high full tosses.
Neither delivery was propelled at the breakneck pace Archer is capable of, with both appearing to be botched variations on his slower ‘knuckle ball’, but Nortje was visibly rattled as he twice collapsed to the turf to avoid being struck.
The first was called as a no-ball and had the second been treated similarly, Archer would not have been able to bowl again in the match.
Square-leg umpire Paul Reiffel made the no-ball signal after the second delivery, which passed just over the stumps but went past Nortje at a greater elevation, though the standing umpire Chris Gaffaney did not call it.
For me it’s plain and simple, we’re playing a game and we’re setting an example for the rest of the people coming into this game.Vernon Philander
There was on-field confusion in the moment and animated scenes on the South Africa balcony, with the home side clearly unhappy about Nortje’s treatment.
Match referee Andy Pycroft is understood to have spoken to England captain Joe Root about the incident and Archer is cleared to continue on day three, albeit under greater scrutiny.
Philander had earlier bowled outstandingly as he claimed 4-16 and was just as uncompromising as he assessed the drama surrounding his fellow paceman.
“The umpires have to deal with it and make the right call,” he said.
“I suppose if you’re at square leg and you call ‘no-ball’ you’ve got to stand your ground. At no time did they actually cancel it (Reiffel’s signal).
“I don’t know what happened but there was a little bit of a conversation going on after the game.
“For me it’s plain and simple, we’re playing a game and we’re setting an example for the rest of the people coming into this game.
“Are we going to tolerate it at another game or are we going to put a stop to it right here?”
Asked if his disciplined performance, which ripped the life out of England’s innings, was an example that elaborate but risky variations were not necessary, Philander risked needling Archer by adding: “That’s why it’s called the purest format: don’t try silly things that can cost you not bowling another ball in the innings.”
England clearly took a different view to Philander about Archer, with Joe Denly seeking to downplay the late tension.
“The first one, fair enough, he didn’t quite get it right,” offered the batsman, who top-scored for the tourists with a patient 50.
“He’s bowled that a lot for us and it’s worked pretty well but I wasn’t expecting the second one if I’m totally honest. It just missed the stumps so I thought it was a fair enough delivery.
“I saw (Reiffel) put his arm out and I think he tucked it in again as well. I was talking to Gaffaney and I think he said they withdrew the second one.”
Despite England’s precarious position, Denly remained upbeat about his side’s chances.
“It was tough,” said Denly.
“There was a very impressive opening spell from (Kagiso) Rabada and (Vernon) Philander. They challenged us. A couple of very good balls in there.
“Once that new ball wore off, it was hot out there as well, they couldn’t charge in for too long and I found some fluency.
“It was frustrating. I felt pretty comfortable out there. Myself and Ben (Stokes) started to get a good partnership going.
“I nicked one and we lost wickets after that.
“We spoke at tea saying to bat long and keep them out there, but we had a great fightback (later on in the day) and we are in a good position.
“We are in a stronger position than where we were (with about an hour to go).
“We have obviously got a big morning coming up.”