SA v Pakistan
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Albie’s CWC case weakens
Cape Town - Albie Morkel is one of those cricketers you really want to see do well for his country.
The Proteas all-rounder’s ability to club a very, very long and high ball over midwicket and long-on needs no further eulogising, while the unflappable and conscientious way in which he goes about his cricket generally must make him a pleasure to captain.
But sadly his case for a first appearance at a World Cup early next year is just beginning to totter, isn’t it?
Morkel missed the 2007 event in the Caribbean, when ageing Roger Telemachus controversially went along as a rather glaring passenger, but a few months ago seemed a safer bet than he does now to crack the nod for the Subcontinent follow-up in 2011.
He has too often been saddled with the difficult label of some kind of new-age answer to Lance Klusener, and maybe that expectation has occasionally hindered his effectiveness in the 50-overs game.
Along with Charl Langeveldt, it must be said, he was one of the big personal “losers”, really, as South Africa unexpectedly surrendered the second ODI to Pakistan on Sunday in a whirlwind of lusty fightback blows from Abdul Razzaq.
Both bowlers rather unravelled at the crucial death phase, missing their lengths all too conspicuously as Razzaq hit a damaging and decisive purple patch at the crease to level the series at 1-1 when Pakistan had seemed gone for all money.
So not only is the five-match series suddenly more alive than we had expected, but the educative process for South Africa ahead of the World Cup gathers critical steam too.
And Morkel chose a bad time to take his worst “tap” yet as an ODI bowler, going for a gruesome 52 runs in one ball shy of five overs.
Langeveldt, under great pressure from the much younger Rusty Theron for the mantle of key yorker specialist in the team, looked suitably sheepish as he went up to collect one of those daft awards for “most wickets” after the loss, even though his own figures read an unflattering 10-0-75-3. (You feel better about a podium visit when you have boasted three for 35, I’m sure.)
But the older of the Morkel brothers, of course, had no need to go up at all.
The harsh truth is that the 50-capper is presently battling a bit at both of his major trades.
There have long been concerns about his ability to get through a full quota of 10 overs on batting-friendly and gun-barrel straight tracks, and he hasn’t been genuinely influential with the ball for some 25 matches since his career-best haul of 4/29 against ordinary Bangladesh in Dhaka in March 2008.
And if he is touted as a good “finishing” option as a power-hitter, he is doing a better job of it in Twenty20 cricket than he is in the more expanded limited-overs game.
Since an unbeaten half-century against Zimbabwe at Benoni in November 2009, he has successive scores of 14 (Zimbabwe, Centurion), 6 (England, Centurion), 2 (India, Jaipur), 1 (Zimbabwe, Bloemfontein), 37 (Zimbabwe, Benoni) and 1 (Pakistan, Abu Dhabi).
His is an unenviable job sometimes, it is true, coming in when the slog tends to be on and he has to get stuck in straight away, but in several of those knocks mentioned he has actually had pretty meaningful time to “build” an innings, yet not done so.
In that period the minimum number of full overs he has had left at his disposal was seven, and the most was 24, in the Jaipur encounter.
Throw in the fact that young David Miller is gradually blossoming as a finisher himself – albeit that he is not a bowling option – and World Cup prospects start to look even wonkier for 29-year-old Morkel.
He had better hope for some opportunity to reignite his credentials in the remaining matches against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.
The next one was to start at 13:00 (SA time) on Tuesday in Dubai.