Morne Morkel has pinpointed fitness as the key to beating India in the forthcoming series, starting at Newlands on 5 January.
After his highly successful return to Test cricket from a side strain, in which he took five wickets in Zimbabwe’s first innings, helping to enforce the follow-on. Morkel has now turned to the five-day Test, and pointed out that ‘the majority of the runs in Test cricket are scored after tea time. So for us, it’s going to be if we have enough petrol in the tank to knock India over at the back end of the day.’
That then turns the spotlight on the fitness of the pace attack lining up for selection against India. There is particular interest in Dale Steyn. He has had more than a year out of action nursing a serious shoulder injury, and was expected to play against Zimbabwe in the four-day match under lights. But that plan fell apart when he contracted a viral infection.
Since injuring his shoulder in the first Test against Australia, Steyn has bowled 16 overs in T20 cricket and 12 overs in a warm-up match against Zimbabwe.
But, said Morkel, ‘Dale has been bowling exceptionally well in the nets. He looks strong, he is very fit and I reckon he would have been a handful on the Port Elizabeth wicket but it’s another week for him to freshen up.’
He emphasised the third session as being particularly important for the South Africa attack because it’s then that their endurance will be tested. ‘It’s going to be about that last session in the day when the ball is soft and conditions are tough.
‘If we are strong and we are fit and we get the results in the wickets column, it will make nice reading in the papers. In the past, the build-up has always been great, the talk of the wickets, the talk of the bounce, we do have a slight advantage, but we still need to land the ball in the right areas, still need to bowl with intensity.’
Morkel is the cover feature in the latest edition of SA Cricket magazine, now on the shelves.