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Morne Morkel: Partner in crime

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Morne MorkelBatsmen these days have more gear on than a Formula 1 car. Yet, fear would be the most potent emotion felt while facing a fast bowler and the fear of God while facing a swing bowler bowling at 150kmph. However, fast bowlers also bring beauty to the sport. There is no better sight than watching a fast bowler run in and swing the ball while quality batsmen use all their skill to look aesthetically pleasing trying to defend.

This is what makes the ongoing England v South Africa series, for a lack of a better word, a beautiful contest. It’s not the batsmen, but the fast bowlers who are going to set the stage alight. All 6 fast bowlers who featured in the first Test are within the Top 15 of the ICC Test ranking for fast bowlers. They are bowlers who can swing the ball both ways, hit the deck like they were hitting ‘Bobo the doll’ and get seam movement. All this happens faster than you can say ‘what just happened’. Hence, even though the two boards have done precious little to promote this nail-biting encounter, the first Test saw a capacity crowd clap the South Africans to victory. Hashim Amla may have walked away with the man of the match award but the South African pacers deserve credit.

Steyn and Philander nipped the ball around and made life akin to 12th standard Mathematics for the English batsmen. Yet, flashing the batsmen’s whole lives in front of their eyes was the fast bowler at the other end – Morne Morkel. He pegged the batsmen back with the bounce he generated. He made batsmen weary of getting onto the front foot even to a well-pitched up delivery, allowing Steyn and Vernon to nab wickets. This partnership of Morkel-Steyn reminds one of many great bowling partnerships like Walsh and Ambrose and Wasim and Waqar. 

Comparing Morkel to Ambrose at this point would not be right. He still has a long way to go. However since Allan Donald took over, he has redefined himself. He has made a conscious effort of pitching the ball up. He has got it to swing and seam from an awkward length where batsmen are unsure of playing forward or pushing back. His pace and the fuller length leave them with less time to adjust to any movement.  Morne’s stats after Donald took over as bowling coach have not shown any significant improvement, but a slight one. In tests his economy and average have improved. But in the 10 ODIs that he has played, he has picked up 20 wickets.

TESTs Span Mts Inns Ovs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Avg. E.R. S.R.
Before
Donald
2006-2011 31 57 1018.1 187 3415 113 5/20 7/98 30.22 3.35 54
After
Donald
8 Jun 2011-
25 Jul 2012
9 18 282.4 56 872 31 6/23 6/77 28.12 3.08 54.7
 
ODIs Span Mts Inns Ovs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Avg. E.R. S.R.
Before
Donald
2006-2011 41 40 332.1 12 1605 66 4/21 - 24.31 4.83 30.1
After
Donald
8 Jun 2011-
25 Jul 2012
10 10 85.1 7 408 20 5/38 - 20.4 4.79 25.5
 
T20Is Span Mts Inns Ovs Mdns Runs Wkts BBI BBM Avg. E.R. S.R.
Before
Donald
2006-2011 17 17 62.5 2 395 25 4/17 - 15.8 6.28 15
After
Donald
8 Jun 2011-
25 Jul 2012
5 5 20 1 156 7 2/31 - 22.28 7.8 17.1
 

Be it T20, ODIs or Tests, strike bowlers often end up taking wickets for the simple reason, they are not afraid to pitch the ball up. With the emergence of ODIs, bowlers started bowling to restrict runs. Therefore, the stock delivery became just short of a good length. But destructive batsmen found ways to dispatch these so called good balls as well. Shots like the ‘reverse sweep’, the ‘switch hit’, the ‘upper cut’, the ‘dilscoop’ and the ‘helicopter shot’ made captains realize that runs can be stopped only by taking wickets. Thus, bowlers who go for runs but take wickets are handled with great care as any asset is. Bowlers who take wickets without going for too many runs are few. The South African bowlers are among these few, as are the English bowlers. This series promises to be one of a kind. It may not deliver the magic of the 2005 Ashes series, but certainly a match for the Wizard of Oz.

Stats by: Karna Yajnik



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