Cricket: Morkel's (no) ball and chain
Morne Morkel has struggled with inconsistency in the past, and the bowler admits that the problem with overstepping the line has resurfaced recently. Not being one to get too knocked down by his faults, Morkel insists he and the rest of the Proteas’ pace bowlers will be working on their troubles ahead of the second Test against Australia in Adelaide. By ANT SIMS.
Anybody who has kept a keen eye on the South African cricket team will be able to tell you tales of frustration born out of Morne Morkel’s inconsistency. While the big man is an incredibly talented bowler with the ability to swing the ball both ways – and who can manage a naggingly accurate length to trouble left handers – he does overstep the line far too often.
Those who followed the 2008 tour of Australia will recall his 25 no balls in the series – a recurring problem which disappeared for a while after former South African bowling coach Vincent Barnes did some extra work with Morkel to help him fix his issues.
The same pattern then emerged again in England, though, and while it wasn’t quite as bad as it had been before, it was an unnecessary inconvenience for a team that was so utterly brilliant in almost every other aspect.
Morkel bowled just once during the first Test in Brisbane, conceding two no balls while Vernon Philander conceded eight and debutant Rory Kleinveldt overstepped the mark 12 times. For the number one-ranked Test side in the world, such inconsistency is unacceptable, and Morkel is all too keen to see it improve.
“Obviously it’s a discipline we need as a bowling attack,” Morkel said on Monday, just a few days before the start of the second Test against Australia at the Adelaide Oval.
“It’s controllable and it is something I’ve been working hard on in my game. The stats show that we’ve been bowling quite a lot of them in past couple of Test series, so it’s definitely something we’re targeting at the moment at nets. Hopefully we can be better in the next Test.”
The inconsistency can also cost a side severely, and it could be something which determines the outcome of a match. It happened in England when Matt Prior was called back during the Lord’s Test match on the final day, and at The Gabba, when Australian opener Ed Cowan was caught down the leg side just after passing 50. He eventually went on to make 138, and Morkel admits that it’s tough to take, but insists his focus is on getting on with the game when he oversteps.
“If my foot was behind the line they could have been a couple more down, and it would have been a different story. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially as you know the quality of the batsmen. You don’t want to give the guys that extra chance. But it’s a matter of getting over it and trying to get on with the job.
“As a fast bowler, I back myself. If I can get them out once, I can do it twice, so I just need to let it go and really focus on the next ball. I can’t bring it back; I can’t control that,” Morkel said.
There has been a lot of chatter from the Australian camp about how South Africa has been “out bowled” and how some of the players, especially the batsmen, are far too easily distracted. Morkel knows that the side needs to improve, and the Proteas will be stepping up the intensity over the next few days to prepare for the Adelaide Test.
“We know what to do to lift our game,” he said. “Over the next three days our intensity at training is going to be of a high quality.”
Adelaide is guaranteed a result, unless the weather drastically intervenes. If Australia wins the series Down Under, they’ll knock South Africa off their number-one ranked perch, although Morkel insists the ranking is something the Proteas won’t give up too easily.
“This is a very important tour for us and we are looking forward to the challenge. The number one spot is crucial, so we are not going to let it go that easily,” the bowler added.
When the Proteas won the series in Australia back in 2008, a lot seemed to change and since then, they have gone from strength to strength. They are slowly becoming an all-conquering juggernaut that relentlessly dismantles those in the way. The most remarkable change for the Test team, though, is its ability to bounce back from whatever bogs them down – and not having lost a Test series since 2006 in Sri Lanka is surely a record they’ll want to keep intact. DM
Photo: South Africa's Morne Morkel reacts while bowling against Australia during the first test cricket match at the Gabba in Brisbane November 12, 2012. REUTERS/Aman Sharma