Morkel, Harro lift SA mood

2009-11-18 08:20

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Amidst a growing sense of unease over South Africa’s Test bowling armoury against England this summer, Morne Morkel’s consistency in the SuperSport Series thus far provides partial relief from the gloom.

Is the 25-year-old finally showing the maturity and composure required to make him a genuine handful at Test level?

Certainly his efforts in the first half of the domestic four-day competition, which have been instrumental in the Titans soaring to a strong lead at the top of the six-team table, suggest he is making a big effort to bury the perception of him as an enigmatic bowler whose radar has had a tendency to go markedly wonky at times.

Lanky Morkel shares top wicket-taking honours (18) in the SuperSport Series with two other players at present – team-mate Paul Harris and gritty Dolphins seamer Johann Louw.

Both Morkel and left-arm spinner Harris are expected to feature in the Proteas line-up for the first Test starting at SuperSport Park, their home ground, less than a month from now on December 16.

So their franchise form is a source of comfort as some experts fear the South African bowling will be too dependent on ace spearhead Dale Steyn – still sitting atop the ICC Test bowling rankings and by far the likeliest source of “five fors” and more in the Proteas’ attack.

Pace great Allan Donald suggested on Cricinfo this week that the Proteas attack “is a worry for (coach) Mickey Arthur”.

Donald was quoted as saying: “Mickey is really concerned they won’t take 20 wickets (and) I think the SA attack is a bit weaker than England’s.

“The England attack is a nose in front with tall bowlers, guys who can make the ball talk, guys who bowl heavy lengths.”

A former England bowling coach and legendary South African head-hunter, Donald was probably referring primarily to the threat posed by beanpoles James Anderson and Stuart Broad, in particular, assuming that the latter overcomes early tour injury concerns.

Morkel’s 18 first-class scalps this summer come at a promising average of 21.55 – he is also “travelling” at fewer than three runs to the over and that is an equally satisfying sign.

The global jury remains out on Morkel’s Test ability: in 17 appearances thus far he has blown decidedly hot and cold with 55 wickets at 34.90 and just one five-wicket haul.

Yet there is no doubt that, if he is in the groove, his ability to generate spiteful bounce can be a very handy South African device.

Nor should anyone panic too much about the relative pounding he took in the SA ‘A’ 50-overs defeat to England on Tuesday – the five-day arena is an entirely different beast where there is more leeway to leak runs as long as you are doing your “strike” job satisfactorily.

Harris’s 2009/10 SuperSport Series figures are incredibly similar to Morkel’s: his 18 poles are at 21.16, and he already boasts a match haul of nine for 80, which is exactly what you hope for from time to time for your frontline slow bowler.

But veteran Makhaya Ntini’s first-class performances for the Warriors must be a source of mounting concern for the Proteas.

The 32-year-old paceman has not managed more than one wicket in an innings in four full SuperSport Series matches and has, in fact, claimed a mere three wickets from 104 overs of personal toil at an unflattering average of 83.

With the Warriors’ next two four-day matches scheduled for the usually benign pitches at East London (against the Eagles) and Paarl (Cape Cobras), time is running out for Ntini to pick up confidence via domestic success in the wickets column.

Whatever happens in those fixtures, he is almost certainly a shoe-in for the South African side for the Test at Centurion from December 16 – it will be the emotional occasion of his 100th appearance at that level, and that ought to be powerful spur for the Mdingi Express.

Elsewhere on the domestic scene, there is not as much to get enthusiastic about, bowling-wise, as Mike Procter and his fellow-national selectors might like.

Willing journeyman Louw’s 18 victims come at an eye-opening average of 16.16 although, at 30, he is not exactly in the “bright prospect” category. (Not that his success should be summarily ignored?)

The 24-year-old Rusty Theron, already capped for SA ‘A’, is leading Warriors wicket-taker (13 at 19.84) although an extra half-yard of pace might make him a more attractive Test candidate than he arguably is presently.

And the Cobras’ bottom-of-table woes are highlighted by the fact that their leading scalp-hunter, by some distance, is batsman and part-time leg-spinner Alistair Gray (13 wickets).

Another veteran, left-armer Cliffie Deacon, has the most Lions wickets (10) while Dillon du Preez (7) tops the Eagles’ pops.


  • Semloh - 2009-11-18 08:40

    Please, please put Ntini out to pasture. He has been an energetic and faithful bowler over many years, but I think it time to call it quits now, especially considering he has not developed any variety in his bowling. But I guess because its his 100th test match coming up, that will side track the selectors from the real issue.

  • Zuntino - 2009-11-18 08:41

    "Is the 25-year-old finally showing the maturity and composure required to make him a genuine handful at Test level?" NO!!! Not Morne Morkel, his only talent is that he is tall! Everytime he has played for SA he has proven that he is useless. And what's more, he lacks intensity, he made me want to vomit when he apologised to Ricky Ponting for bowling a bouncer and hitting him on the head, seriously! What a Mof! Andre Nel was just as useless but he would have spat on the shoes of Ricky had he got that right! Come Morne with the right "F&^% you" attitude and maybe he will do well... other than that I'm not sure...

  • Derek - 2009-11-18 09:18

    What's wrong with giving the 2 younsters a chance Parnell and CJ de Villiers.

  • tman - 2009-11-18 09:18

    @Semloh..if you have nothing better to say just keep..quiet, Pollock needed Donald to stick around a while b4 he could hold his own, Likewise Ntini needed now its his turn to pass what he's learnt b4 Steyn fulfills his true potential..who himself will have to pass on to Parnell, bowling unlike batting is not jus abt hit and dash.

  • Marcus - 2009-11-18 09:21

    How about this Ryan McLaren guy, if he keeps up his limited-overs form? If Ntini gets dropped, then McLaren, Morkel (assuming he's blowing hot), Harris and Steyn would be a pretty handy bowling outfit along with Jacques Kallis.

  • Mandlendoda - 2009-11-18 09:34

    @Zuntino-My brother i wouldn't have said it better about Morne Morkel,he's probably the most overrated cricket player IN THE WORLD CURRENTLY. TALL AND USELESS.I'm not sure if he's even useful for the domestic cricket.

  • RL - 2009-11-18 10:13

    oh how much patience, trust and confidence we have in our lighter skinned athletes ... just warms ones heart.

  • Wiggle - 2009-11-18 10:14

    ...eish Nt ...gotto to be strong mate - you never wanted change your action thus them folk will chow you big time - try something different bro - some kids in PE - really want you to perform well -

  • Julius Malema - 2009-11-18 11:06

    Okay we say we are concerned about our bowling....well lets look at the stats and if stats dont lie the where are the likes of (Louw, Friend and Mbalathi) these are the form players at the moment and yet the don't even get a mention. Morkel has had enough chances I watched him play last night and he still looked rubbish kinda reminded me of Saj Mahmood. The boy needs to toughen up a bit and be a bit aggressive be nice off the field but relentless on it I have never seen a bowler so timid not even at the club level that I play at (look at Alan Donald, McGrath etc) not nice when bowling that contributed to most of the wickets they got. Lets gets rid of this soft pussy cat and get a real lion in the frame (Mbalathi or Friend)

  • Navarac - 2009-11-18 11:31

    Morkel reminds me of a time, not too long ago, when a certain Supersport commentator, was known (to me and my friends) as the oldest "promising youngster" in SA!

  • Zuntino - 2009-11-18 12:00

    Can't believe I'm gonna say this but I agree with Julius... There are way better talents out there who are putting themselves on the line and haven't been given a chance, give them a chance first then decide on Moronkel! @RL - what does that comment have to do with anything??? Doesn't matter whether he's black or white, he's useless...

  • Banana - 2009-11-18 12:14

    Morkel did a great job for SA A against the poms amasing a total of 1 wicket at a rate of 6.5 per over...good one

  • Gerald - 2009-11-18 12:59

    Ntini is not a shoe-in for the Test side. If he is not even taking wickets in the provincial games he has no business in the Test side. The problem with lots of these provincial bowler, even the ones with nice looking stats, if when they average low 130s. When they move to Test level they can't cope as the they are too slow.

  • MMMM... - 2009-11-18 13:26

    Goodness but you guys are negative & oh so full of it...why don't you go play & see how it goes! Then we can trash you as well! Leave poor Morkel alone, if you don't have anything good to say rather leave it for goodness sake!! Maybe we need more gentleman to play as Cricket is after all a gentleman's Sport!

  • dave - 2009-11-18 13:59

    I would like to see Ntini's rpo stat. I would guess that he is very economical, around 2 to 3 per over. Test cricket is about building pressure. If Ntini can do this & wickets fall at other end then job done.

  • DW - 2009-11-19 13:55

    Please guys, just relax. To say that Morkel is completely useless is pretty ridiculous as you just read that he's the highest wicket taker in the domestic competition! I'm not saying he's an amazing bowler at this point, but he certainly doesn't deserve to be trashed like this. I really don't understand where all the hatred on News24 comes from.

  • gph - 2009-11-19 14:43

    well said DW

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