Morne Morkel will play no further part in Test series against Bangladesh, but he bowled superbly in the time he had, writes GARY LEMKE.
As the final day of the opening Test between South Africa and Bangladesh unfolded in Potchefstroom, Keshav Maharaj looked to be the man to cause the most panic in the visitors’ dressing room.
Bangladesh closed on 49-3, needing another 375 runs to win the game. That was never going to happen, and Faf du Plessis had the ideal opportunity to crowd the bat and help Maharaj pick up a couple of bat-pad or lbw decisions as the Proteas pushed for victory.
Not playing any further part, however, was the man who produced one of the more memorable opening overs of a Test innings bowled by a South African – Morne Morkel. He was forced to leave the field after bowling 5.2 overs, grimacing slightly as he gently fingered an upper left side muscle, but not before he had produced fast bowling of the highest order.
The first over, around the wicket to the left-hander Tamim Iqbal, had the dangerous opener out fourth ball, hitting off-stump. The fifth ball, to Monimul Haque, struck the pad, but the umpire rightly ruled it missing leg stump. The finger went up for the sixth ball, a replay of the previous ball.
The second ball of Morkel’s second over was possibly one of the finest he has sent down in the Test arena. It drew Mushfiqur Rahim into coming forward and went through the defences, taking out middle stump.
To an audible groan from the big fast bowler, replays showed he didn’t have any part of his foot behind the bowling line, and Rahim therefore became the 14th batsman that Morkel has ‘got out’ to a no-ball – an unwanted world record, with his victims including Andrew Strauss (back in 2008), Matt Prior, Ed Cowan, Michael Clarke, Ben Stokes and now Mushfiqur Rahim.
But to watch Morkel sprinting in and sending the ball down in the mid 140km/h on a pitch that has largely been a batsman’s paradise – South Africa’s two innings combined for 743-9 – was a joy, until the injury.
It has to be remembered than Senwes Park has always been kind to batsmen, and a really tough examination for a fast bowler, but it is also the ground where a younger Morkel first caught the eye 11 years ago while an inmate of the Potch-based Eastern franchise.
Playing for a Rest of South Africa XI against the touring Indians in Potchefstroom in late 2006, he used his local knowledge to take 4-74. The selectors noticed his potential and called him up to debut for the Proteas in that same series.
As the senior bowler in this Proteas XI, he led by example in this Test match, and it’s also noticeable that on both the England tour and now Bangladesh that he has changed his bowling length.
Morkel is pitching the ball further up, whereas before he used to bowl back of a length, which saw the batsmen primarily go on to the back foot to him. The deliveries that bowled Iqbal and the no-ball to Rahim were prime examples of him bowling fuller. Sure, the pitch was docile, and on a bouncier track those deliveries might have gone over the top, but the length Morkel is bowling is noticeably attacking the stumps more.
He won’t get the headlines as the Test comes to its conclusion, but every South African cricket follower will appreciate what a fine match he had on a flat track; of his four wickets, two were bowled, one lbw and the other caught in the slips, highlighting his aggressive approach.
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