Time for Morne to come to the party
I am looking forward to a match-winning performance from Morne Morkel over the next couple of test matches against Pakistan. I really enjoy big Morne as a person. Sometimes I think he is too nice a guy to bowl quick but when he gets the bit between his teeth he is really exciting to watch. For this reason it will be terrific if he fulfils his obvious talents by producing big wicket hauls on a regular basis.
Currently a few small factors stand in the way of his achieving just that. Consistency is the biggest issue at the moment. Constructing an over at the top level is very important. In other words, being able to put six deliveries together in such a way that the batsman is under real pressure, is the key at test level. This is the area where Morne sometimes struggles. He will get three out of six deliveries right but the other three can be wayward in line or in length.
Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are so good at this aspect. They have the ability to create and maintain pressure. As a result they complement one another and they get optimum results. Morkel backs them up well with his pace and steep bounce but his own strike rate as far as wickets are concerned will improve when more consistency kicks in.
In a strange way, when Steyn and Philander occasionally struggle on flatter surfaces, Morkel comes to the party – as happened in Australia during the first two test matches. It is almost as if he relaxes and lets himself go when Steyn and Philander battle.
The opposite is also true. When the Steyn-Philander combination fires on all cylinders, Morkel seems to feel under pressure to take wickets in bundles as well. He visibly tenses up and almost tries too hard which affects his performance.
Then there is the small matter of placing the front foot. During the last test match, Morkel was perilously close to the front line with every delivery. He needs to try and get back to the point where half his front foot is behind the front line. Unless he does that, every time he takes a wicket there will be suspense from all concerned while the third umpire checks the front foot.
It's hard enough to get wickets at top level. Wasting a few by overstepping is ultimately devastating for the individual involved as well as the team.
It is no secret that few international batsmen enjoy facing Morne Morkel in full flight. Let’s hope we see the very best of him over the last two test matches. The prospect excites me.