NZ v SA, 3rd ODI, Hamilton October 26, 2014

Morkel upbeat on Australia tour

Play 04:03
'We are hungry for 3-0' - Morne Morkel

For Morne Morkel, there is a reason beyond cricket to finish off New Zealand as quickly as possible and get going on the next leg of South Africa's trip, to Australia.

"To go and visit the in-laws," Morkel explained. "We're getting married on December 6, so it's the perfect time to go and introduce myself and see how they're all doing."

Morkel's fiancee is Australian television journalist Roz Kelly, and the couple will be married in Cape Town shortly after the tour ends. But before Morkel can focus on that big day, he has to prepare for what he hopes will be another big day, a few months later.

"It's about getting myself ready for the World Cup," Morkel said before South Africa's third ODI against New Zealand in Hamilton. "I'm getting there and I'm happy with my progress."

Discussing his preparation in stepping-stone terms is not merely Morkel being modest, but because he is making his return from injury. Morkel sustained a shoulder niggle during South Africa's series in Zimbabwe in August, which threatened to rule him out of the tri-series final against Australia. Morkel, however, played through the pain and only began a rest and rehabilitation program on his return home. Now, he can see the results.

"Before, I was struggling with my shoulder and I was out of the game from a bowling point of view for five weeks. When I arrived here it was my first outdoor bowl and we know the story; you can bowl as much as you want in the nets but game time and pressure in the middle is a different story.

"I was a bit rusty in the initial overs finding my feet, but as the game went on, especially in the second one-dayer, I came right. Getting through games pain-free is a step in the right direction."

Morkel has not been South Africa's highest wicket-taker in New Zealand- that record is shared by Vernon Philander and Imran Tahir - nor has he been their most economical - Tahir again, followed closely by Dale Steyn - but he has provided support. He intends to step that up as the matches go on, especially against Australia next month.

Like many of his team-mates, Morkel believes success over Australia in the five ODIs South Africa will play between November 14 and 23 will set the team up to compete as best as they can at the World Cup. Morkel also thinks South Africa are already halfway to achieving that, following their win over Australia in Zimbabwe, and because of the form they have shown against New Zealand. "We have played well and we have the momentum going to Australia," he said. "It's a tough tour and it's the perfect preparation to thicken our skin for what is to come later."

For some players, going to Australia will be a reminder of how difficult visiting their arch-enemy is. For others, like Quinton de Kock and Kyle Abbott, it will be a first taste of international cricket against opponents who do not do compromise well. Morkel expects both groups to learn from their experience.

"The intensity is always high when you play against Australia. There's a few surprises waiting for some of the boys at some of the grounds from the spectator point of view, but that's going to be part of all the fun," he said. "When you play against Australia, there's always a bit more butterflies and adrenaline. It's something we need to get used to as a team. We need to enjoy those challenges."

If revelling in playing Australia also includes coming out on the right side of the contest, then Morkel will return home knowing South Africa are in the best position they could want to be before trying to break their drought in ICC global events.

"The language we have spoken in the dressing-room for the past couple of months has been very positive. If we continue like this, the guys will be ready for the World Cup."

But whether his in-laws will be too keen to see him during that event is another matter altogether.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments