Sri Lanka in SA
Morkel looks class ODI act
Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Morne Morkel (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - If you didn’t have the benefit of any prior knowledge of Morne Morkel’s one-day international career, you might be excused for thinking it was an arena unlikely to suit the beanpole speed merchant.
Monitors of his Test career - especially the early part of it - would certainly be inclined to suspect that was the case, given his occasional but sometimes glaring problems with accuracy and rhythm and a penchant for frustratingly grabbing “wickets” with no-balls.
Yet a glance at the Titans player’s ODI statistics provides some strong elements of surprise under the circumstances.
If he turns out for the Proteas in the third encounter with Sri Lanka in Bloemfontein on Tuesday (14:30 start) - and on form there seems every reason to assume he will, unless a break for him is suddenly prescribed - the younger Morkel brother will earn his 50th cap in the format.
And his ODI figures thus far make for pretty good reading, while showing promising signs of getting even better.
He has grabbed 85 wickets at an average of 22.76 (long-time head-hunting partner Dale Steyn’s average is 27.81, incidentally) and has an economy rate of 4.80 which also eclipses the Phalaborwa Express’s 5.14.
Perhaps it only bears out further the cricketing enigma Morkel is that he seems less erratic in the hurly-burly of the limited-overs arena than he does in the more drawn-out version of the game.
Maybe there is something about the urgency and compactness of ODIs that keeps him on his toes better than Test matches do?
The irony is extended, in that the 27-year-old currently lies better placed in the world - sixth, South Africa’s best - on the ICC ODI bowler rankings than he is in Tests, where he is presently seventh.
He has brought a very focussed aggression and standout pace to his ODI bowling activity of late, and admits to be thriving thus far under the rookie, animated leadership of his acknowledged friend and franchise colleague AB de Villiers.
Morkel’s form is terrific: he has grabbed four-wicket hauls in three of the Proteas’ last six ODI appearances on home soil, including that career-best four for 10 in the slaughter of the Lankans first up at Paarl.
On that occasion he shared the new ball with Lonwabo Tsotsobe, and the pair rattled the visitors with the unexpected degree of bounce they generated on a supposedly benign surface - certainly not too many batsmen must feel hugely inclined to want to waltz down the track to Morkel, given the threat of a ball smashing nastily into the throat.
These two represented arguably the most physically imposing, in height terms, opening combo for South Africa since the days of Vince van der Bijl and Garth le Roux against early rebel opposition in the early 1980s, by my rough estimation.
If Morkel turns out as expected in “Bloem”, it will be only his second ODI there, following a steady analysis of 9-0-32-0 against minnows Kenya in October 2008.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing