Proteas: Morris may be in right place … outside

2019-03-07 12:05
Chris Morris (Gallo)

Cape Town - Chris Morris may increasingly feel he is in a similar, inadvertently good sort of space to Titans team-mate Aiden Markram.

That place? Outside the current Proteas squad, still bedevilled with vexing structural issues even as they have coasted to a 2-0 lead over lowly-ranked Sri Lanka in the five-match one-day international series.

Emerging batting talent Markram was omitted from the party for the first three ODIs, and promptly showed how he felt about it in the best way possible: with successive scorching innings in the Momentum One Day Cup of 169 and 139 for his franchise.

Shortly afterwards, the lack of depth to the SA batting was exposed all over again despite Wednesday’s 113-run victory in the second ODI at his home venue of SuperSport Park.

But in a more understated way, Morris could just find that certain other shortcomings in the Proteas team are working slowly toward his favour for a World Cup 2019 recall.

The Centurion ODI was marked by another failure of any in-squad all-rounder to produce something really meaty in statistical terms: of late, a handful of them have almost seemed to be present only because of the perceived need for “balancing” in the XI, rather than through great personal weight of performance. 

I wrote on Wednesday that the phenomenon might coax coach Ottis Gibson and the selectors to downscale their allocation of versatile cricketers in the 15-strong CWC squad.

But they will probably still need at least two designated all-rounders and Andile Phehlukwayo warrants staying on the inside lane, despite his reckless dismissal for two in the latest ODI when a more measured, watchful vigil seemed a better course of action.

He did not bowl on the night, but that may have been partly because he has just recovered from a practice injury.

The choice of a second all-rounder, however, is getting more interesting - and not necessarily for all the right reasons.

Raw Wiaan Mulder is still only finding his feet gingerly in ODI cricket (10 caps now have not produced any notable “wow” effort, and the World Cup somehow looks a little too big a demand on him at this stage) and steady, more experienced Dwaine Pretorius is currently lurking on the fringes of the squad without getting exposure very consistently.

Which might (no, should) bring Morris - a seasoned limited-overs campaigner at 31, and boasting 34 ODI caps - back into the picture for the global event.

Often injury-prone in the past, he has been gathering a nice head of steam for the Titans of late, with successive 50-overs matches where he has travelled at fewer than five runs to the over - an occasional shortcoming is being expensive - and picked up a fair crop of scalps into the bargain.

Three games back, too, he blasted a 20-ball unbeaten half-century against the Lions in Potchefstroom. That’s the kind of confirmation of X-factor we haven’t properly witnessed yet from someone like Mulder, have we?

Another far from unimportant factor to bear in mind is that the wiry Morris is a sprightly fielder, with a good throwing arm: the last-named hallmark is especially worth mentioning because it is common knowledge that the Proteas carry several players with histories of right-shoulder problems and far from remarkable throw-in capability as a result.

In his last white-ball appearance for the country, Morris produced a decent double of two for 27 (a full four overs) and 55 not out off 29 deliveries in a T20 international against Pakistan at Centurion.

What also happens, virtually automatically, if you opt for him as an ODI squad all-rounder is that he becomes an additional strike bowler in the ranks: it is well-known that he is hardly short of speed or hostility on a good day, so would serve as fourth genuine paceman if South Africa only take Messrs Rabada, Steyn and Ngidi in that capacity.

It is time to train the spotlight more intensely on “outsider” Christopher Henry Morris again.

Hopefully the wise men will be watching (and that he turns out, of course) when the Titans tackle the Warriors in Benoni on Friday.

Morris can be one of those blows-hot-and-cold type of cricketers, but the door must not be closed on him … his best qualities are hard to ignore.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  chris morris  |  cricket


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