Morne Morkel at the Kia Oval in Surrey. Photo: ICC,

SURREY – South African Morne Morkel, who quit international cricket at the end of the Test series against Australia in April and subsequently signed a deal with Surrey for two years, said that shifting base to England was his best career choice.

“I could have still played international cricket for another three or four years if I wanted to,” he told BBC Radio London in an interview.

On the switch to the county circuit, Morkel said, “For me, first-class cricket in England is of the highest quality. You have very strong local players, international guys and overseas players and it is very competitive.

“For me, it is important to play a high standard of cricket. I still feel mentally and physically fit to play white-ball and red-ball cricket.”

At the time of making public his decision to stop playing for South Africa, 33-year-old Morkel had said that it was a call made keeping in mind the needs of his young family.

“I have a young family and my wife is Australian and we needed a neutral base to set up some roots. When you play in London you can get away from the game and sometimes I need to clear my mind,” he explained.

“You can go and see a show – I've seen The Phantom of The Opera three times – and there are fantastic restaurants and beautiful parks. It is easy to travel from London as it is central, and to go anywhere in the world is very easy. At this stage in my life, it fits in beautifully.”

Morkel retired from Test cricket after 86 matches, crossing the 300-wicket mark in the third of four Tests against Australia with his career-best match haul of 9/110 before finishing on 309 wickets and a career-high 800 rating points on the ICC Test Player Rankings for bowlers.

He has since been a part of two rained-out One-Day Cup fixtures for Surrey, the abandoned game against Sussex and the match against Kent, when he returned 1/50 from his 10 overs.

In the interview, Morkel said that he had been impressed with the Surrey youngsters he had seen, including Sam Curran, the fast bowler who made his Test debut against Pakistan at Headingley on Friday.

“Sam is a typical 19-year-old, who plays with no fear and doesn't over-think the game,” said Morkel. 

“Will Jacks is a fantastic player and reminds me a bit of a mix between Jason Roy and Kevin Pietersen – a very aggressive sort of batsman. I predict a great future for him and Ollie Pope has impressed me a hell of a lot.

“The way the guys have been training over the past couple of weeks, it is a trophy-winning side. It is just a matter of guys staying fit, us going to the back end of the competition and still being mentally fresh to go on and win a trophy.” 

African News Agency (ANA)

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