Albie Morkel and Imraan Khan both made their Test debuts for South Africa against Australia at Newlands, from 19-22 March 2009. Neither played another Test.
Nine months later, from 16-20 December, the Proteas squared up against England in the first Test at Centurion. Graeme Smith, who had been injured against Australia, replaced Khan at the top of the order – and was out for a seven-ball duck on his return – while Friedel de Wet came on for his Test debut as Morkel was left out.
Morkel, who thereafter pursued fame and fortune on the India Premier League calendar and various other T20 circuits, has now signalled his intentions to play Test cricket again.
‘I would like to put my fishing rod in the water. If I can score a couple of centuries with a high strike rate, compile more than six hundred runs and take thirty scalps in a season, anything is possible,’ he reportedly told the media. That is all well and good, and the fact that Morkel feels he still has a role to play at Test level for South Africa is admirable. But, quite frankly, he’s now 33, he has made a lot of money in the past five years and the team has moved on, hasn’t it?
Back in 2009, Morkel was 27, Khan 25 and the Proteas were rampant. Despite it being a dead rubber in the three-Test series, South Africa won by an innings and 20 runs, with Paul Harris’ 6-127 in the second dig earning him man of the match honours.
Australia won the toss and chose to bat but were back in the pavilion, having been bowled out for 209 in 72 overs. Phil Hughes and Simon Katich put on an untroubled 58 for the first wicket before Harris struck, trapping Hughes lbw. Morkel then had Ricky Ponting caught behind by Mark Boucher for a duck and Australia folded from 152-4 to 209 all out. Morkel finished the innings with 1-44.
In their turn at the crease, Khan and Ashwell Prince put on 65 for the opening stand before Khan was caught and bowled by Peter Siddle for 20. Prince went on to accumulate 150, Jacques Kallis hit 102 and AB de Villiers weighed in with 163 as the Proteas amassed a huge 651 at a rate of 4.1 runs per over. Batting at No 8, Morkel hit 68 off 71 balls.
Australia fared better in their second innings, with Mitchell Johnson hammering an unbeaten 123 off 103 balls while Harris worked his way through the line-up. Australia were all out for 422, some 20 runs shy of asking the Proteas to bat again.
Morkel went wicketless in his 20 overs for 88 runs and he has not been selected since. He can, therefore, tell his children he took the wicket of the Australian captain for a duck in his debut, scored 58 in his only innings – so he has a Test batting average of 58.00 – and was in the team that thrashed the Australians by an innings at Newlands.
It’s not a bad yarn to dine out on, and for the sake of a Test memory I’d rather leave it at that. After all, there is the 50-over World Cup to look ahead to next year. I’d rather have Morkel apply himself to that.