Cape Town – South Africa are likely to unleash a trio of “caged beasts” when they tackle Australia in the lone Twenty20 international fixture to end their successful short tour at unfashionable Carrara on Saturday (10:20 SA time).
It would be rough on all of Chris Morris, Farhaan Behardien and Tabraiz Shamsi – the only members of the limited-overs squad not used in the three-game ODI series – if they don’t get to take to the field in the Gold Coast suburb.
Head coach Ottis Gibson will be mindful of the fact that his charges performed the main business of beating the host nation (2-1) in the 50-overs format, and that a few freshening faces could help guard against any complacency or a collective look of fatigue in the T20 clash.
Perhaps even more relevantly, however, all three remain in the picture for World Cup 2019 selection in May, and should be itching to make a strong contribution on Saturday despite the brief shift to the even more abbreviated arena.
There is special interest now in the scrap for the No 7 all-rounder slot in the ODI team, given that Gibson seems increasingly intent on fielding four specialist bowlers in his XI, regardless of their tail-end batting potential, and increasing the onus on the versatile factor at seven –whoever it is – to offer appealing enough credentials with the blade.
So if Morris gets a game on Saturday, banking a few runs and ideally clearing the ropes a few times, something he is very adept at on a good day, would do wonders for his own bid to force his name back toward the front of selection-focussed minds.
He has had to sit and watch patiently on tour so far as both Andile Phehlukwayo (the first ODI) and Dwaine Pretorius (each of the next two) got a gallop and did more in bowling terms than anything else to press their CWC cases as batting opportunities were either limited or non-existent for them.
Morris has a first-class batting average (always a decent barometer on technical grounds, despite the different demands there) of 32, which puts him reasonably close to Pretorius (39) and considerably ahead of Phehlukwayo (19).
He is a risk-taker in his stroke-play, which brings both pluses and minuses to the party, and perhaps not quite yet struck the best balance between trying to score quickly and playing with a greater degree of patience and application.
The 31-year-old, whose career has been cruelly interrupted by some longish-term injuries in recent seasons, has also not yet set the T20 international landscape, specifically, alight with any notable batting prowess: his top score is 17 not out from 10 knocks although some of them have obviously come right at the chaotic “death” phase of the Proteas’ innings.
But it is in the bowling area where Morris has at least one handy edge over the other two: he is a genuine pace bowler, even if his radar can let him down from time to time.
Gibson, as a former Test paceman himself, clearly loves putting out an attack loaded with strike-power (not to mention rib-tickling potential) and if you added Morris to the in-form likes of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Lungi Ngidi, South Africa would be in the rare position in the limited-overs environment of sporting four recognised quickies in the same line-up – plus still having room for the spinning wiles of Imran Tahir.
As reported on Sport24 earlier on Wednesday, Steyn – among the individual standouts of the ODI series for the Proteas -- has flown home early from Australia to be able to take part as rapidly as possible in the maiden Mzansi Super League for the Cape Town Blitz, possibly beginning with their second game on Sunday away to the Durban Heat.
But there seems a ready-made immediate replacement, really: suitably experienced now at all levels of the game, the time has come for Morris to shed his tag of enigmatic – albeit usually combative and exciting to watch -- customer and start matching potential with weightier stats for his country.
Perhaps we’ll see the roots of new beginnings from him on Saturday …
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