Morne Morkel has spent time on the sidelines because of a back injury © Getty Images
Fast bowler Morne Morkel was left out of South Africa’s XI for the first Test against Australia at the WACA because he wasn’t 100% ready to bowl long spells, according to his captain Faf du Plessis.
Although du Plessis had declared Morkel “fit and in contention,” the day before the match, at the toss he confirmed there was some hesitation over Morkel’s readiness for Test cricket. “Morne has been bowling well. He’s actually coming off an injury, so he’s probably about 90-95% ready. Bowling long spells for him is still a little bit of a concern,” he said. “We just want to give him a couple of days to make sure that back gets fully fit. But I think a spinner in these conditions will be perfect.”
South Africa gave left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj his maiden Test cap. Maharaj was incidentally the first spinner ever to make a debut at the WACA. Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Kagiso Rabada make up the pace attack.
Morkel had spent the last two months on the sidelines recovering from a bulging disc in his back. He sat out the two Test series against New Zealand and the six home ODIs – one against Ireland and five against Australia – and only played one first-class match in the build-up to this series. In early October, Morkel turned out for the Titans against the Warriors, bowled 26 overs in the first innings and took 3 for 54. But he bowled only four overs in a short second innings and there were some concerns over his match fitness.
South Africa also have transformation targets to consider in their team. With a requirement of a minimum average of six players of colour, of which at least two must be black African, over the course of a season, Morkel’s inclusion could put their numbers out. They met the requirement in the Perth Test.
Maharaj, a left-arm spinner, has played first-class cricket for ten years and is fresh off a career-best match haul of 13 for 157 for the Dolphins against the Warriors in the season opener last month.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo