JOHANNESBURG - Chris Morris admits he hasn’t performed with the necessary consistency at international level but is looking forward to correcting that in Australia as he seeks to secure a spot in the national squad for next year’s World Cup.
Morris has all the necessary tools to thrive for the Proteas; he can reach speeds of 140km/h-plus when he bowls, hits the ball as far as anyone in the world and is an excellent fielder whether close to the bat or on the boundary.
And he has displayed those talents on the biggest stage – the ball that ripped through Joe Root in the second Test in England last year stands out, as does his innings of 63 off 38 balls to dramatically beat England at the Wanderers in the ‘pink ODI’ in 2016. But those types of performances have been too infrequent for his or the selectors liking. A protracted period on the sidelines rehabilitating from a lower back injury has allowed him time to – from a mental perspective at least – start to address those issues.
“The selectors know what I can do, they’ve seen it domestically,” Morris said Wednesday after he’d been picked in the squad for the month-long trip Down Under that will see the Proteas face Australia in three ODIs and on T20 International. “Admittedly, I’ve not done what I can in international cricket. I’ve just not stepped up to the plate consistently, there’ve only been glimpses.”
Morris has played just four Tests, and his 34 One-Day International caps have been scattered over five years indicating not just the problems he’s had with injuries but also the lack of trust because of his inconsistent performances.
“To have the opportunity to tour with the Proteas again is very special. I’ve worked quite hard in the last five months to get myself back on the park. I’m just happy to be playing cricket, it’s quite nice to be ‘jolling’ again.”
“When I got back playing, the first thing I had to do, was perform for the Titans, I feel I’ve done quite nicely so far, and the next step is to perform for the Proteas and the only way to do that is to put in good performances and stay on the park.”
Morris has played both of the Titans two four-day matches this season, bowling 56 overs in those two matches. He produced some of his best performances in the Abu Dhabi T20 League; hitting 46 off 14 balls in one match and picking up two wickets in that competition, but also - more importantly for him - bowling with great pace and accuracy.
Morris said watching Andile Phehlukwayo and Wiaan Mulder play regularly for South Africa in the last year had served as a “kick up the arse.” “Those are two good up and coming youngsters; Wiaan is injured now, I’ve had that and it’s good he is having it early in his career, because he’ll be stronger for it. I just want to play cricket, I feel I’ve underperformed and the only way to do that is to prove people wrong.”
Mulder’s injury may keep him sidelined until the new year. The 20 year old, who caught the eye of Proteas coach Ottis Gibson on the first day he arrived in the country last year, had ankle surgery and may not be fit to play until January 2019. How much that impacts on his World Cup chances remains to be seen, but besides Morris, it also gives an opportunity to Dwaine Pretorius to stake a claim for one of the seam bowling all-rounder spots for the World Cup.
Australia will be a significant examination for Morris and the Proteas regardless of recent struggles in the aftermath of the sand paper scandal that occurred when they toured here earlier this year and led to lengthy bans for their two premier batsmen: Steve Smith and David Warner.
“After what happened to them when they were here, I expect the Aussies will come out all guns blazing. Australia, at home are a formidable side, no matter what team they put together, whether that’s the stalwarts or the youngsters that are coming through. It’s my first tour to Australia, it’s an exciting tour for me, and we are under no elusions that we will face a barrage of fast bowling and big hits.”