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South Africa’s attempts to stay alive in the ODI series against England seemed to have ended when Reece Topley took the one-handed catch in his follow through that dismissed Farhaan Behardien, the last recognised batsmen in their line-up. Had Chris Morris not been picked for this match, it probably would have been.
But the IPL’s newest dollar-millionaire is not just a bowler who can bat a bit. He has spent a lot of time working on his ability to build an innings and he has already shown that.
On Test debut last month, Morris scored 69. Before that, he made 86 batting at No. 8 for his franchise, the Titans, in a first-class match to set them up for a match-winning total. After that, he hit an unbeaten 45 off 16 balls for them in a List A game to do the same. Morris knew he could probably see South Africa over the line if he had someone with him to do the same. Then, he lost David Wiese at the end of the 41st over and South Africa still needed 56 runs.
“When Dave got out, I thought we were in a bit of strife,” Morris said at the post-match press conference. “I know KG can bat but…”
Rabada was dismissed three balls later. South Africa needed 53 with Morris on 14 when he was dropped by Adil Rashid in the deep on the next delivery he faced. He knew he had to make it count.
“Luckily they dropped me. I just thought that it’s an opportunity to play cricket for your country. If it’s the arc you can hit it far. I’ve played a lot of cricket here and I know the altitude helps,” he said.
Before Morris moved to the Centurion-based franchise, he played at the Wanderers for the Lions and the Johannesburg-crowd did not forget their prodigal son. As AB de Villiers put it, “I think it was [the fans] that pushed us over the line,” and although the sell-out crowd would have helped, it was actually Morris who took South Africa to the line and Imran Tahir who took them over it.
Morris credited the “work I have done on my batting in the last couple of months,” with some of it but admitted there’s still some work to do. With scores level, he was bowled by a googly from Rashid, who earned some redemption for dropping him, after Morris failed to read the delivery. “I didn’t pick that for anything. That wasn’t my best. He can have it,” Morris said.
De Villiers would not have been thinking the same thing. When Morris went, the South African captain’s stress levels rose after they had been on a rollarcoaster through the game. “We didn’t need a nine-downer tonight. I was taking a bit of strain there in the change-room,” de Villiers said.
“We could have made it easier for ourselves. We were a bit naughty there. My run out and a couple of other wickets were a little bit soft. We could have finished it earlier and with more wickets in hand.”
In fact, de Villiers also thought they could have given themselves less to chase after reducing England to 108 for 6 at the halfway stage. “We had the opportunity to bowl them out for 150 but I was still very happy with 260 odd,” de Villiers said. He would have been because at that point, Eoin Morgan thought it “was South Africa’s game to lose after we fell 30 or 40 runs short.”
England have posted totals of over 400 and over 300 in the series so far and Morgan was “surprised it has taken us this long to fall this short.” Although England have now squandered a 2-nil advantage, Morgan was still full of praise for players like Joe Root, who scored a second successive century and Chris Woakes, who managed an impressive return on his recall including an athletic run out of de Villiers.
“Joe’s run of form has been magnificent for the side,” Morgan said. “And Woakesy got the ball to move around. The game ebbed and flowed but it was our game to win.” Now it is anyone’s series to win, with the decider to take place in Cape Town on Sunday.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo