Chris Morris needs to play every Champions Trophy game at No 7 to avoid repeating past failings in major tournaments.
A warm-up tour-opener against Nottinghamshire doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things, but Morris’s 26 not out and 3-36 in the Proteas’ 13-run victory was a timely reminder of just how important a role he will play if the Proteas are to try and win their first major trophy in 19 years.
Morris is set to be South Africa’s No 7, and it’s the most sure the selectors have been about a South African No 7 for years. Indeed, if you look at past tournaments, it’s a position the Proteas have toyed around with. In theory, it’s a position you really don’t want to be toying around with, because a No 7 needs to be capable of bowling 10 overs and scoring half-centuries.
In the 2015 World Cup, Farhaan Behardien, Wayne Parnell and even JP Duminy made appearances there. In the 2013 Champions Trophy Ryan McLaren and David Miller were chopped and changed, and in the 2011 World Cup Johan Botha played the most there. Not only are the majority of these players incapable of fulfilling both duties at a high standard, but there wasn’t a constant.
Morris has to be that constant. In a squad full of all-rounders, it’s vital that these players all know their roles. Former SA A coach, Dave Nosworthy, put Morris’s IPL success down to knowing what was required of him. ‘He knows exactly what he needs to do in every game,’ he said. ‘Delhi has made him their main strike bowler and power hitter. When you have too many options, some guys don’t take responsibility. They believe the other teammate will have their back.’
That’s what could come to bite the Proteas if they rotate their all-rounders too much. Morris needs to play every match at No 7. If they decide to put Morne Morkel in the starting XI, then I would put Andile Phehlukwayo or Wayne Parnell at No 8. But their best all-rounder in that squad is Morris, and he needs to be clear of his role.
Now, the argument against Morris is that he’s only proved that he’s capable of taking on these roles in fleeting moments, and his batting even less so. People will talk about his 32-ball 82 for the Delhi Daredevils last year for years, and he was two sixes away from hitting the quickest fifty in history this season when he blasted 38 off nine balls against the Rising Pune Supergiant. His 62 in the fourth ODI against England early-last year can only be defined as match-winning. So he’s capable of it, but he can’t necessarily guarantee that he’s going to do it all the time.
Morris is capable of taking the new nut as well as bowling at the death, but again, he hasn’t done it with distinction over a sustained period of time. As Lions coach Geoffrey Toyana alluded to, ‘as someone who has worked with Morris, it’s important that he starts confidently, otherwise things can go badly.’
You might call Morris a jack of all trades, master of none. But we’ve seen him wipe away the New Zealand top four with the new ball in that first ODI in Hamilton in February, and when the Sunrisers Hyderabad posted 191-4 against the Daredevils last month, Morris took 4-26, three of which were at the death. That included Shikhar Dhawan, David Warner, Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh.
He’s capable of the extraordinary; he’s got that X-Factor edge to him. The Proteas need to back him in that No 7 role consistently to get the best of him consistently.
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