Chris Morris is desperate to prove he can be South Africa’s answer to Ben Stokes, though he won’t be using England’s bruising all-rounder as any sort of mentor.
This country has produced enough great all-rounders for Morris to find inspiration on home soil, but there is a healthy respect for what England’s all-rounder did in the Test series and wariness about what he could do in the five-match one-day series starting in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.
“They’ve got the best all-rounder in the world at the moment. It doesn’t matter what team he (Stokes) plays for, he’ll change it. He’s a serious cricketer, he can bat, he can bowl and he can field,” said Morris.
“Stokes has set an early marker for all-rounders around the world … the innings he played in Cape Town and the way he bowled at the Wanderers; he’s seriously quick and it’s set the bar very high for all-rounders around the world.”
The 24-year-old was named Man of the Series in the Tests after picking up 12 wickets and scoring 411 runs.
“England have got what South Africa had a few years ago; four frontline seamers and a spinner. They’ve got Ben Stokes who gets hundreds and five-wicket hauls – Jacques Kallis used to do that,” Proteas coach Russell Domingo said after the last Test match.
Morris and Stokes will undoubtedly be key components in their respective teams for the one-day series.
Stokes at 24, while four years younger than Morris, is far more experienced at international level and clearly a more rounded and impactful player.
“I wouldn’t say I’d like to be like Ben Stokes; I won’t mould myself on anyone. I want to be a genuine and good all-rounder for South Africa,” said Morris.
There is enough to inspire him right here, of course, from the likes of Shaun Pollock to Lance Klusener and the greatest of them all, Kallis.
“The all-rounder spot is up for grabs (in the SA team). I’m working really hard on my batting. I’d love to claim the all-rounder spot; it’s a lot of extra work that I don’t mind doing. It’s a nice title to have – to be the all-rounder.”
Stokes and Morris have crossed paths before – a year ago, in fact, in the five-match ODI series between England’s Lions and the South Africa A side.
In a memorable match in Mamelodi, Stokes scored 151 off 85 balls and then picked up three wickets, while Morris’s all-round contribution wasn’t bad either – a 33-ball 58 which backed up a fine bowling effort in which he claimed 3/50.
So far Stokes, who bizarrely wasn’t part of England’s World Cup squad last year, has played 34 ODIs compared to Morris’s eight. In what was Stokes’ most influential performance hitherto in his one-day career, he scored 70 – batting at No3 – and then took 4/38 in England’s only victory in a five-match series against Australia in Perth two years ago.
Morris can’t lay claim to anything as impactful yet in his short career, where his batting has played a distant second fiddle to his bowling. This series against England, however, could be different.
Given Dale Steyn’s absence as he continues rehabilitation of his shoulder and Kyle Abbott’s hamstring injury, Morris should start Wednesday’s opening ODI in which both Kagiso Rabada and Morné Morkel – despite the need to manage their workloads – may also play.
Morris will hope – after playing just one match in South Africa’s victorious series in India – that he’s able to get a decent run against England and can go someway towards cementing that all-rounder berth he craves for, and the team desperately need, over the next few years. - Saturday Star