Injured Morkel out, Morris picked as replacement
South Africa's Champions Trophy hopes have suffered another setback, with Morne Morkel ruled out of the tournament with a quad strain. Allrounder Chris Morris has been announced as Morkel's replacement and approved by the ICC's event technical committee*. ESPNcricinfo understands that Morris will join the squad in Birmingham on Saturday.
Morris is uncapped in ODIs for South Africa but played two Twenty20 internationals last season. He opens the bowling and can reach speeds into the mid 140s. He has just completed his first IPL, in which he was one of the standout players for Chennai Super Kings with 15 wickets at 26.73. He is also a handy lower-order batsman.
Morkel is the fourth big-name player to become unavailable for South Africa after Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn, although there is hope Steyn will return. Morkel bowled 6.5 overs during South Africa's opening match against India before he left the field in obvious discomfort. He was taken for an MRI scan following the team's defeat which revealed a Grade 1 injury that is more serious than it initially looked.
"There is a tear in the layer covering the muscle which means the recovery time will be longer than we thought. He will take at least three weeks to recover," Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa's team manager who is also a medical doctor, explained.
That leaves South Africa's pace stocks severely depleted, especially as Steyn is still nursing a side strain. Steyn picked up the niggle during South Africa's warm-up match against Pakistan at The Oval on Monday. At the time Moosajee said he would need five to seven days to recover, a period that ends in time for South Africa's next match against Pakistan at Edgbaston.
That does not mean Steyn is a guaranteed starter, though. "Dale is a work in a progress as far as recovery is concerned. We can only get him to start bowling once he is symptom free," Moosajee said. "It's a challenge, because if we allow him to bowl and the injury is aggravated, we will be back to square one. The physiotherapist is working hard on him and taking it day by day. It's a wait and see thing." More information on Steyn's condition will be known when the squad trains on Saturday.
Both Morkel and Steyn played in the IPL but Moosajee did not want to lay all the blame on that competition for the problems South Africa are experiencing. "There is a huge volume of cricket for guys who play across all formats. While I can't blame the IPL, at the same time, there is no guarantee that the volume of cricket is not leading to this.
"From a South African perspective, for both your marquee fast bowlers to be ruled out of a major tournament… I guess it could have happened at any time. Dale and Morne are our premier bowlers and we want them to play but I'd like to believe we have become a very resilient team. We're hoping other guys have a chance to shine."
Morris was preferred over Wayne Parnell, who played four games in the IPL for Pune Warriors and has been on the fringes of the South Africa squad in recent months, and Marchant de Lange, who made a return to cricket late in the 2012-13 season after recovering from stress fractures.
He also beat competition from a man former players such as Michael Vaughan and Pat Symcox are pleading for: Vernon Philander. After Tsotsobe and Kleinveldt conceded heavily against India and looked tactically out of sorts, Philander's lengths were spoken of as being missed.
However, the Test ace is not considered part of South Africa's one-day plans. He has represented them in the fifty-overs format eight times, with his last appearance in January 2012. Philander is usually reserved for Test cricket only and injuries have also hampered his progress in the one-day format.
*11.30GMT, June 7: This article has been updated after Morne Morkel's replacement was approved by the ICC
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent