Paarl - The return to form of Morne Morkel was one of the most pleasing aspects of South Africa’s mauling of Sri Lanka by 258 runs in the first one-day international (ODI) in Paarl.
GALLERY: Proteas v Sri Lanka in Paarl
Paceman Morkel has gone through a difficult time lately and in the recently-completed three Test series against Sri Lanka he looked someway short of his Test ranking as the fifth-best bowler in the world.
His position in the Test team had come under increasing pressure after the emergence of seamer Vernon Philander and young tearaway Marchant de Lange, who nabbed seven wickets on his Test debut in Durban.
But the 27-year-old Morkel answered his critics in the best possible way as he returned career best ODI figures of 4-10 as Sri Lanka were blown away by Morkel and his new-ball partner Lonwabo Tsotsobe. “I started off slowly this season but I knew in the back of my mind that a special performance was around the corner," the genial Morkel said after the match.
In a typical gesture of humility Morkel said that his performance meant more because it had helped his good friend AB de Villiers to enjoy a perfect start to his career as South Africa’s ODI captain.
“He (De Villiers) is a close friend of mine, so it was a special feeling to be able to do it now. We had simple plans that we wanted to execute and I think we did that well,” said Morkel.
De Villiers outlined the “simple plans” that he had put in place for his pace attack of Morkel, Tsotsobe and Dale Steyn.
"I asked the boys to come in with the new ball and to strike. They really ran in as a force and it worked out well,” he explained.
"We knew that we'd have to run in and hit the deck hard. That's the key on these kinds of tracks, then you can get out of it what you want. We did have a bit of seam movement, which we didn't expect, but we also saw Dale not clocking in below 140km/h. It was aggressive and we had intent all the time,” he added.
The series now moves to East London for the second match of the series but De Villiers will not be basking too much in the afterglow of his first win as skipper.
“I have played this game long enough to know that this is not the time to get excited. We've got another ODI coming up soon and we have a lot of work to do,” he said.
In something of a turnaround South Africa had begun the tour against Sri Lanka having to field a number of questions about their lack of consistency but those same questions are now haunting the visitors.
The tourists showed that they are no pushovers when they won the second Test against South Africa in Durban after a heavy defeat in the first Test.
But any momentum from the Durban win has swiftly dissipated after a heavy 10-wicket loss in the third test and being rolled over for just 43 in the first ODI, their lowest score in ODI history.
Sri Lanka’s skipper Tillakaratne Dilshan struggled to explain his team’s performance.
“We have to look at our consistency. We've played good cricket one day and bad cricket the next day. The same thing happened in the Test series. We have to address that over the next couple of one-dayers.
“I don't think we can do different things. We are doing everything right, we are training hard but we are not carrying those things into the middle,” he said ruefully.