London — Vernon Philander has missed eight of the 37 Tests SA have played at home since he made his debut‚ and they have won half of them.

So it is not a catastrophe that he is out of the first Test against Pakistan in Centurion on December 26 with a broken thumb: SA’s attack would seem to be at least half the force it is when Philander is fit and firing.

Except that the other half of that equation will not Be reassuring reading for supporters.

SA have won 21 of the 29 games played at home with Philander in harness and lost five.

Having him has helped them succeed on their own patch 72.41% of the time‚ and he has been part of failure just 1.72% of their games.

That could mean SA are 70.69% — the difference between those two figures — less likely to win at home when Philander is not part of the side.

He has played three Tests against Pakistan in SA‚ taking 15 wickets at an average of 15.80 — and has been on the winning side every time.

And with Lungi Ngidi also missing because of a knee injury that will take him out of the mix for at least three months‚ you can see what Ottis Gibson means when he says: "I really don’t even want to think about what would happen should there be another injury."

But a thumper like Ngidi‚ as valuable as he has been in four Tests in which he has claimed 15 scalps at 19.53‚ is replaceable.

Not neatly. His quality shines out even in SA‚ where good quicks are not hard to find.

The upside is that finding a reasonable facsimile of Ngidi promises to prove easier than filling the hole Philander — a bowler of skill and nous — will leave in SA’s attack.

Duanne Olivier is a fast bowler in the Ngidi mould‚ but nobody bowls like Philander.

All of which takes out of the reckoning all the other variables that make Test cricket the least predictable of the game’s formats; aspects like the conditions and the relative strengths of
the opposition.

We have a decent idea of what the first of those factors will be like at Centurion‚ and also for the succeeding matches that take place at Newlands and the Wanderers.

We also know Pakistan have won only two of their dozen Tests in SA and that they have not been in the best of form with four wins in their last 10 Tests‚ seven of which were played in their adopted home of the UAE.

Still‚ cricket-minded South Africans would sleep 70.69% more easily if they knew Philander was fit for Centurion.