Chris Morris proved his worth for South Africa with a spectacular display of hitting © Getty Images
Chris Morris gave South Africa one of their most memorable ODI victories in Johannesburg on Friday night but not even the man himself thinks it has secured him a place in a side packed with allrounders but still searching for middle-order muscle.
“I’m trying my hardest to cement a spot in the team,” Morris said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve leapfrogged over anybody. There are still a couple of guys who should be given an opportunity if they put in the performances but I’ve put in a lot of work on my batting. Eventually it has to pay off and tonight it was my turn to show off that I am pushing for that allrounder spot.”
As a seam-bowling allrounder, Morris’ direct competitor is David Wiese, who also played in the Wanderers match but had far less eye-catching returns. Wiese scored just 21 runs off 32 balls before reaching for a wide ball and spooning a catch to short cover after a similar bowling effort to Morris’. Wiese conceded 58 runs in his 10 overs while Morris cost South Africa 52 runs in nine overs and picked up an important wicket – that of Joe Root – at the death.
Ultimately Morris believes they are not competing with the bat because his “main role is to bowl.” In that department, Morris thought he was “slightly under par” but admitted that “being a hitter at the end is a bit of an advantage”.
In South Africa, it is more than a bit of a positive. The team have long looked for reliable finishers and have yet to find someone who can consistently deliver, although AB de Villiers mentioned someone else who he can now put faith in at the end.
“Fudgie, look he’s a big match player, he always has been, especially at domestic level, he’s proved it time and time again,” de Villiers said, referring to Farhaan Behardien, who hit 38 off 42 and shared in a sixth-wicket stand of 48 with Wiese that ensured South Africa did not implode after JP Duminy‘s dismissal. “He’s started to prove that now at international level over the last year or so, playing big knocks under pressure. Unfortunately he got out but he played his game to perfection and set it up nicely for guys like Chris to finish it off.”
Behardien will welcome the support, especially after his bowling was not required and he received heaps of criticism on social media for not seeing the chase through.
De Villiers’ backing of Behardien can also only mean that Duminy, who ran the captain out and was then dismissed by an Adil Rashid legbreak that smacked him on the pad, is under pressure for his place, especially as his contributions dwindle.
Duminy’s bowling was cast aside two matches ago, when South Africa first called on an allrounder in the XI, but that has not helped his batting. He last scored an ODI fifty seven matches ago, in Bangladesh last June, and questions over how much longer South Africa can accommodate Duminy while keeping David Miller and Rilee Rossouw on the sidelines are starting to sprout.
Unlike some of his team-mates, Duminy does not seem to embrace the do-or-die moment in the same way Morris did. “As a cricketer you live for those pressure situations,” Morris said. “I kind of enjoy being put under pressure because that’s where you get tested as a character and a cricketer.”
Those are exactly the kind of words a captain like de Villiers wants to hear. “Knocks like that shape a player,” de Villiers said. “It’s massive for Chris what happened. The game and sport is about confidence and now he can find a way to get a bit of confidence and self-belief.”
Not that Morris needed any more of an ego boost. Last Saturday, he sold for a million dollars in the IPL – over R16 million at the current exchange rate – but it seems he still has not realised what that says about his worth.
Just as Morris did not think his match-winning efforts at the Wanderers will guarantee him a place in the national side, he does not think that his price tag says too much about his ability. “I don’t think anyone can justify going for that amount of money in the IPL,” Morris said. But after his performance on Friday, the Delhi Daredevils will be able to justify spending that amount.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo