Johannesburg - Chris Morris, who is shooting the lights out with his bowling and batting talent for the Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL), has emerged as a key man in the Proteas’ latest ICC trophy campaign.
Cricket SA a few days ago named the one-day international (ODI) team that will contest the three-match ICC Champions Trophy series with England.
The unassuming Morris was named as one of the team’s all-rounders in a squad of 15.
While he didn’t single Morris out per se, Lions coach Geoff Toyana inadvertently pointed to the Titans star as the man who will potentially plug a variety of holes in the Proteas line-up when the Champions Trophy gets under way on June 3.
Going into the ODI series against New Zealand, which was won 3-2 by Russell Domingo’s men, the burning questions after a lopsided 5-0 whitewash over Australia were: Who will partner Kagiso Rabada with the new ball; who will bat in the crucial all-rounder role at number seven; and who will do the business when it comes to death bowling?
While the selectors have probably picked veteran Morné Morkel for the opening and death bowling duties, and stocked up on all-rounders by selecting Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius and Wayne Parnell, Morris’ recent performances in both New Zealand and India mean he will contribute in all those areas.
“For me, the key is that, in the bowling unit, the guys understand their roles,” said Toyana.
“A guy like Morris, who seems to be impressing with every game he plays, can do the job of opening with Rabada, but the key is for him to start well.
“As someone who has worked with Morris, it’s important that he starts confidently, otherwise things can go badly.”
With the visiting Sri Lankans not having asked any questions of South Africa’s death bowling in the recent series, Toyana said Morris’ IPL exploits had put him in the frame for the difficult role.
“Morris has shown that he’s got the ability to bowl at the death, and with a guy like Kagiso’s pace and control in the late stages, there shouldn’t be a problem.”
Making his comeback
Looking at the all-rounders, Toyana said Domingo’s men batted deep, and he pointed out that Pretorius bats ninth for the team, but as high as six for the Lions.
Again, Morris taking the long handle to all and sundry in India means he probably gets that all-important number seven spot in the line-up.
Talking about the squad as a whole, Toyana said it was “a fair squad that had played together for the past 18 months”, but he was surprised by the inclusion of left-arm orthodox spinner and lower-order big-hitter Keshav Maharaj.
“He’s a top bowler who’s done well for the Dolphins in limited- over cricket and for the Proteas in Tests,” he said.
“But it’s a surprise for me because [left-arm chinaman Tabraiz] Shamsi and [Aaron] Phangiso have been part of the set-up for a while now.”
Toyana said he was also surprised about Morkel returning so soon after making his comeback in the recent Test series against the Black Caps, but felt his experience and bounce could make him a dangerous customer in English conditions.
He was also mystified by the omission of Vernon Philander.
“I thought that, as a seamer, he would have been in the discussions, but there’s still a good balance between bat and ball in the team.”
Asked if he felt the Proteas finally had a squad that would win a major ICC trophy, Toyana was confident without being committal.
“If you look at the side as a whole, for the past four or five months, they haven’t relied on AB [de Villiers] or [Dale] Steyn, so the younger guys have come through and everybody seems to be performing at the same time.
“When you add the batting of Hashim Amla, Quinny de Kock, Faf [du Plessis], AB and David Miller to the equation, I really think they’ve got a chance to go all the way in English conditions.”