Cape Town - Morne Morkel’s travails in the recently competed Test against Sri Lanka were more “mental than physical” as the fast bowler adjusts to his new role in the team, former Proteas spinner Pat Symcox said on Monday.
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Morkel, who former South Africa coach Mickey Arthur once described as being a ‘big unit with long levers’, struggled with his rhythm during the Proteas’ comprehensive innings and 81-run victory over the tourists in Centurion.
The lanky fast bowler claimed just one wicket in the match while conceding seven no-balls in the 19 overs that he bowled.
Morkel used to form a devastating new-ball partnership with Dale Steyn but the emergence of Vernon Philander has seen Morkel relegated to first-change, a role that Symcox said will take Morkel a while to adjust to.
“Morne Morkel is an issue that Gary (Kirsten) has to deal with. He (Morkel) has had a role change and it could take time for him to adapt,” Symcox said.
“He is now the first-change bowler after having done very well opening the bowling for South Africa and his franchise and he needs to deal with that emotionally. He probably feels under pressure but his problems are more mental than physical,” he added.
However, Symcox went on to say that the pitch in Centurion was not ideally suited to Morkel’s bowling style.
“I feel that he is at his best when pitches are flatter rather than when there is a lot of swing and seam movement. His strength is the abnormal bounce that he gets which gets good batsmen out on flatter pitches,” Symcox explained.
South Africa’s bowling coach Allan Donald said that Morkel just needed to find his confidence again.
“I was a rhythm bowler and a confidence bowler and I needed to bowl a lot to have that confidence and to bowl in certain areas with good pace. Morne is exactly the same... We know what Morne is capable of and it's not far away that he will be knocking the door down again,” said Donald.
Symcox, who captured 108 wickets in 20 Tests, said that he had also been impressed with the way that leg-spinner Imran Tahir had settled into the South Africa line-up.
Tahir played a valuable role in the Centurion Test, picking up two wickets to open up an end for the fast bowlers, while he scored an entertaining 29 not out in South Africa’s first innings score of 411 all out.
“I think Tahir has settled in fine. He made a contribution with the bat and picked up a few wickets.
“The role of a spinner in the South African side, in South Africa, is a supporting one and to pick up a wicket or two. The go-to guys in the South African side has always been the fast bowlers. If a side is seven down and the ball is reversing the captain is always going to go back to his fast bowlers. It is very rare that a South African spinner is going to take five wickets in a Test in South Africa especially in the Dale Steyn era,” Symcox explained.
The series now shifts to Durban for the Boxing Day Test and Symcox said that he did not see Sri Lanka being able to fight their way back into the contest.
“It is going to get worse for Sri Lanka. Their two best batsmen Sangakkara and Jayawardene need to contribute. Sri Lanka are a really good one-day side but too many of their batsmen gave their wickets away in Centurion,” he concluded.