Proteas: Morris muscles his way back

2017-01-28 22:17
Chris Morris (Gallo)

Cape Town – South Africa pulverised Sri Lanka in the first one-day international on Saturday, aided by fairly predictable excellence from established pros like Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and Imran Tahir.

There was also a suitably polished showing at severely windswept St George’s Park, both as captain and batsman, from one AB de Villiers in his first appearance in the format since June 24 in Bridgetown, Barbados.

The result seemed a major statement of intent for the next couple of weeks from a largely back-to-full-strength Proteas line-up, and was their 10th straight ODI triumph on home soil, certainly suggesting a well-greased machine.

But this five-match exercise in the 50-overs arena, plus the next one of identical duration in New Zealand quite shortly, is also about gradually getting the team structure and balance right for the assault on the ICC Champions Trophy in England and Wales in June.

So in that respect, the encouraging comeback of lower-order all-rounder Chris Morris was another feature of Saturday’s clinical victory by eight wickets with all of 15.4 overs to spare.

Morris had previously played only one cricket match since late July last year – a Sunfoil Series outing for the Titans against his former franchise the Lions earlier this month – due to a knee injury; he has been no stranger to interruptive mishap.

But he looked considerably sharper than might have been expected with the ball in his 16th ODI, which also saw him produce his best figures yet for his country in terms of economy.

That is significant because, for all his ability as a wicket-taker and general reputation for bringing some X-factor to the party (regardless of format) a reputation for being just a little too expensive at key times has stalked him – former SA captain Kepler Wessels is just one hard-to-please critic who is seldom slow to point this out.

All that said, Morris has a keen fan club as well, including much-travelled SuperSport commentator Mike Haysman who believes he is “very, very talented”.

And in howling Port Elizabeth, Morris bowled with suitable purpose and rhythm on the typically slow and low track, returning figures of two for 29 from what ended up being only three balls short of a maximum, 10-over stint.

For someone who historically travels at closer to six in ODIs, he only leaked at 3.05 runs to the over, having been introduced to the attack as first change by De Villiers, making him the most disciplined statistically of the six bowlers used.

The lanky competitor bowled intelligent, consistent lengths, even if his line went just a little awry at times – he was responsible for five wides as he drifted outside leg stump.

There was also clearly a premeditated plan to employ him in the “death” phase, even if there was never going to be major pressure on any Proteas bowlers performing that task as too many Sri Lankan wickets had fallen to allow for a really concerted onslaught in their closing overs en route to a disappointing, uncompetitive 181 all out.

Even Kagiso Rabada, so much of a go-to factor for South Africa in an array of ways, was allowed to bowl out his quota of overs by the end of the 43rd, suggesting that there is plenty of confidence in Morris to be a big player in the usually frantic “finish” situations.

Whatever his faults -- and hopefully there is still time for Morris to lessen them in international combat at age 29 – his body language is normally quite convincing at such times and he never seems to lose the plot altogether even if a batting team is going crazy at the back end of their innings.

Given the glaringly one-sided nature of the match, Morris did not get an opportunity to strut his stuff at the crease at No 7 where his spirited boundary-thumping ability arguably makes him a better bet in that specific berth than main bowling all-rounder rivals Wayne Parnell and Andile Phehlukwayo.

That said, the unpredictable Parnell mostly enhanced his own credentials, going forward, with a back-bending display of his own in grabbing three for 48.

The left-arm paceman ripped out both ‘Lankan openers -- including the in-form Twenty20 hero Niroshan Dickwella -- extremely quickly, which put the tourists horribly on the back foot; a situation from which they never properly extracted themselves.

Parnell was the top seamer on the day for extracting awkward, glove-tickling bounce off the unhelpful track.

Competition? That can’t be bad … can it?

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  chris morris  |  cricket


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