DURBAN – South Africa may still be recovering from the body blow of having to do without Dale Steyn for the entire England tour, but there’s another paceman champing at the bit to take the new ball in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
All-rounder Chris Morris admits “I’ll even bowl spin if they want me to”, but knows he offers most when utilised upfront. The lanky Titans star had a solid Indian Premier League season for the Delhi Daredevils, where he averaged 30.80 with the bat but also claimed 12 wickets at an average of 20. The majority of these scalps were virtue of making early inroads for the Daredevils which has certainly enhanced his claim to open the bowling for the Proteas in the United Kingdom.
Since Kyle Abbott’s defection to Hampshire in January after signing a Kolpak contract that restricts him from representing the Proteas, the national ODI side have not stuck with a permanent opening pair.
Morris’s Delhi teammate Kagiso Rabada is, obviously, the front runner to bowl from one end, although captain AB de Villiers has used his premier strike bowler in a first-change capacity on occasion recently.
Morne Morkel has completed a successful comeback to international cricket after a lengthy spell on the sidelines due to a back injury and provides De Villiers with an option, while fellow all-rounder Wayne Parnell has also been included in the 15-man Champions Trophy squad.
Despite Parnell being the most successful seam bowler for the Proteas over past 10 ODI’s – the left-armer has 8/120 off 24 overs – the Proteas may still lean towards Morris due to his better economy rate of 4.88 during the opening 10 powerplay overs.
“Competition is healthy and we’re all men and there’s a lot of testosterone flying around but at the end of the day we just want to win games for the Proteas and win the tournament. So, whoever plays, I’m sure he is giving his best out there and if I have to carry drinks I’ll be the best drinks carrier there is,” Morris told Independent Media.
“But hopefully I do get an opportunity. I’d like to (take the new ball). I’ll even bowl spin if they want me to. But hopefully I do get an opportunity show what I can do.”
Morris certainly has plenty of fond memories of the last ICC Champions Trophy four years ago. It was there where he answered an “SOS” after Morkel was ruled out of the tournament.
Benefitting from his IPL experience back then already, having played for the now-defunct Chennai Super Kings, Morris set aside the nerves of an ODI debut and the embarrassment of his name being spelt wrong on the team sheet to get South Africa’s campaign firmly back on track. He claimed 2/25 to help the Proteas defend just 234/9 by dismissing Pakistan for 167 in front of a raucous Edgbaston crowd in Birmingham.
Morris’s maiden international journey ultimately ended with South Africa crashing out to hosts England in the semi-final at The Oval, but Morris was one of the few Proteas to emerge with his reputation enhanced after claiming the early wicket of Alastair Cook.
“I obviously made my debut in 2013 at the Champions Trophy. I am very excited to go back. It is a privilege to be at another ICC Champions Trophy for South Africa. It’s going to be fun. I remember back then … Davey (Miller), myself and Dale actually were the single guys on that tour.
“We were actually talking about it just now, had a lot of fun, ‘The Three Musketeers’, so it was good fun and I really believe we have a good chance of winning it, so going to go out there and just give it our best shot,” Morris said.