• Pitch perfect

    November 16, 2014 Morne Morkel, most wickets

    Morne Morkel would love to dig up the WACA pitch and carry it around Australia with him for the rest of the ODI series.

    Morkel, playing in his 85th ODI, produced career best figures of 5 for 21 to help South Africa level the five-game series, after the first two matches in Perth.

    It’s now on to Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney for the remainder of the programme, but none of those pitches will be as bouncy and as helpful to Morkel as the WACA was.

    It was a dominant display by the South African bowlers who cleaned up the Australian batsmen in just 41.4 overs, having them all back in the hut for 154 – and then chasing down the target, but not before losing seven wickets themselves in the process.

    A measure of South Africa’s bowling being on song – compared to Friday’s opener where they leaked 100 runs in the last 10 overs – is seen by the batting powerplays.

    In total six wickets fell in those 15 overs for just 40 runs. It was the constant clatter of wickets which always had South Africa on top and Australia stuck in a hole they were never going to climb out of.

    Morkel is by no means the quickest fast bowler around, and again he was operating at speeds just under 140km/h, occasionally touching that mark, but the pitch suited him perfectly.

    On slower pitches the length that he bowled on Sunday might have seen the ball sit up a bit and be dealt with rather differently, but at the WACA the bounce and carry through behind the wicket allowed him to pitch it short of a good length and prosper.

    Morkel doesn’t have to get into the 140km/hs to create havoc. On a pitch such as this one, his height and the bounce make him a double handful.

    Two of his wickets can be considered slightly fortunate as both David Warner and Matthew Wade – both left-handers – gloved the ball through to Quinton de Kock down legside and any time a batsman is out in that fashion he can be considered a little unlucky.

    On any other day the ball could have missed completely and there would be two wide deliveries called, or it could race down for a boundary if there was a bit more glove.

    But, at the WACA, the bounce and carry through helped create the opportunity and Morkel took full advantage.

    With South Africa’s bowlers on top from so early – Australia were two wickets down within the first five overs – the hosts were unable to exert any pressure on the ‘fifth bowler’, Farhaan Behardien, who actually trapped Shane Watson in front, on his way to taking 1-40 in eight overs.

    Behardien was bowling because Ryan McLaren had been dropped after an ordinary match on Friday and replaced by the batsman Rilee Rossouw. However, the balance of the side is still not spot on as the Proteas need more than five bowlers – AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis are the remaining part-timers – and there will be many occasions when one of the frontline bowlers proves expensive and other options are required.

    With eight matches remaining before the World Cup we know that once JP Duminy is fit again he will return to the side and he will be able to contribute to the bowling department.

    But, who will he come in for? At this stage it’s either Behardien or Rossouw, but what South Africa is lacking is a genuine all-rounder. Vernon Philander was considered the closest there is to one in the current XI, but he was again poor with the bat, and we do know that Wayne Parnell is also on the fringes.

    And, when it came to their turn at the crease, only AB de Villiers played with any real authority, looking every inch the ODI Cricketer of the Year that he is and South Africa looked jittery in pursuit of a small total.

    For now however that selection headache can wait for another day. Today is all about Morkel, the gentle giant who was poked in the ribs and responded with a career-best performance. He even allowed himself to give a bit of verbal to the Aussies when he got the much-hyped Glenn Maxwell to play on for a second ball duck.

    ‘Big Show’, Morkel seemed to say to the departing batsman, who is called by that name for his ability to turn on the magic.

    In Perth on Sunday there was only one big show in town. That was Morne Morkel.

    Photo: Backpagepix



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