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Morris + Philander = Kallis

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Jacques_Kallis_South_Africa_cricket"He is becoming the new Jacques Kallis the way he is batting. We joke about it because his technique is becoming the same as Kallis' as well," du Plessis had said of Vernon Philander after South Africa's win at Trent Bridge

Though the comparison seems absurd, du Plessis might have a point. South Africa may have finally moved on from the luxury they enjoyed when Jacques Kallis was available. Kallis' equally good batting and bowling abilities made him a more than valuable asset for the Proteas. The squad balance was never in question with Kallis in the team. However, once he retired, South Africa struggled to find someone like him and tried fitting in several all-rounders at no.7 without much success. 

But Kallis is South Africa's highest run-scorer and fifth highest wicket-taker, no mean feat in a country that produces talents in thousands. Trying to find somebody exactly like him was pointless. 

Under Faf du Plessis at Trent Bridge, South Africa finally showed signs of moving past Kallis. JP Duminy, forever believed to succeed Kallis as the all-rounder, was finally dumped for Chris Morris and Philander. The duo, at 7 and 8, fulfilled a role that Kallis did single-handedly for a long, long time. 

Cutting down a batsman at a time when the batting order isn't doing particularly well is a risk. But du Plessis trusted in Philander and Morris and the duo repaid the faith. Not only was Philander pretty good with the ball, he strode in and made a vital half-century. Morris, on the other hand, showed immense patience in his batting and cleaned up Joe Root with a peach of a delivery before bouncing out Alastair Cook.

 

In this game he had a new challenge on his shoulders. We left a batsman out to play two all-rounders and with that comes extra responsibility on his shoulders,

du Plessis had said. 

 

"We gave him the promotion to seven because I back his technique and his batting and he responded beautifully by getting crucial runs for us. The ball will always be the ball for him, he is a machine but now he is doing it with the bat as well."

Philander and Morris bring totally different qualities to the table, although both are now branded as (bowling) all-rounders. Philander is a control freak who thrives on pitching the ball in the same areas and generating subtle movement either ways to bamboozle batsmen. Pace isn't his forte and he relies on his unwavering lines to work over batsmen. With the willow, Philander is a sturdy batsmen with some solid shots. He is proud of his defence and more often than not puts a hefty price on his wicket.

 

Morris, meanwhile, is everything Philander isn't. He is an out and out pace bowler who swings the ball in the air. His forte is troubling batsmen with pace and disconcerting bounce accompanied by the surprise weapon which Joe Root fell to, the yorker.

 

Morris is also an attacking batsman with the ability to clear the fence with ease. However, he also has a patient side to his game as he revealed in Trent Bridge. But expect him to go for his shots every time the ball is in his zone. 

"His control surprised me. We know he is an x-factor bowler, so to see now that he has some consistency creeping in is huge for us. That adds to our x-factor as a team now that we have four very high quality seam bowlers”, du Plessis had commented on Morris after the game. 

That the duo bring completely different skills to the table is good for South Africa. It offers a two-man replacement for one giant Kallis. South Africa have the luxury of playing both in Test cricket and if Trent Bridge is anything to go by, the move is a successful one. Alongside Rabada and Morkel, Philander and Morris form a four-pronged seam attack with all of them offering completely different skills. That is quite a luxury to have in this era. 

 

The comparison with Kallis, which du Plessis joked about, isn't too funny if you consider Philander's record in England. He averages a miserly 21.60 with the ball in England compared to Kallis' 29.30. But the stunning fact is Philander averages 40.28 with the bat against Kallis' 35.33, although the former all-rounder did play 10 matches more. 

 

These numbers are testimony to Philander's rising reputation with the willow in Test cricket. Although not quite a Kallis, when combined with Morris, the duo offer a strong solution for the all-rounder conundrum that has confused the South African Test team since Kallis hung up his boots. 

 

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