South Africa v India, 1st Test, Centurion December 14, 2010

Morkel awaits duel with 'dangerous' openers


The three-Test series between South Africa and India starting in Centurion on Thursday has been dubbed a contest between South African bowling and Indian batting. For Morne Morkel, the crux of that battle will be between the openers on both sides of that equation.

"Gautam [Gambhir] and [Virender] Sehwag upfront are very dangerous. Not long ago Gautam was No. 1 in the world and we all know how destructive Virender can be against the new ball," Morkel said at a press conference in Centurion on Tuesday. "It's a contest we are looking forward to especially here on South African wickets where you don't just have five overs where the new ball is vital - it tends to bounce for a bit longer."

Morkel knows the Centurion pitch very well. He plies his domestic trade at SuperSport Park for the Titans and has observed a few changes in the strip he has bowled on for so many years. "They've changed the square a little bit and there is a little more life in the wicket," he said. Being on national duty has meant that Morkel has not played many franchise games, but in the one first-class match he managed to fit in this season he was impressed with the deck. "We asked for a nice quick wicket then and we bowled out the Warriors for 70-odd. The pace and bounce was very good."

With wet weather hanging over the Highveld, the bowlers are likely to benefit from a pitch more lively than a Jack Russell puppy. "If there are overcast conditions like we've had, who wouldn't put his hand up to bowl first?" Morkel asked and enthusiastically almost raised his hand as well. Before he could do that, he stopped himself and reminded the audience that the South African seamers were going to be bowling to a very competent Indian line-up.

Even though coach Corrie van Zyl didn't think the time India's batsmen spent in South Africa during the IPL and Champions League would benefit them much, Morkel disagreed. "The way they have been playing in the IPL and the CLT20, they have definitely improved their game on South African conditions." Morkel also thinks India's coach, Gary Kirsten, would have passed on a few vital tips for his troops. "Gary Kirsten has got all the insides and knows how to play on SA wickets, so the he would have been a big help for them for how to play on a bouncy wicket."

While the focus has been on one side of the contest, Ashwell Prince thinks that the other side could be just as important especially because Indian pace attack will also enjoy responsive pitches. "We respect the Indian seam attack. They normally do very well in subcontinent conditions which don't support the fast bowlers much and they must be looking forward to having assistance from our wickets."

Although the wickets are being prepared for seamers, Prince did not negate the role Harbhajan Singh will play for India. "He will be a threat as he is one of the best in the world. I'm sure he is looking forward to the series as well. Graeme Swann had good series in SA last year and at moment Swann is rated the best spin bowler in the world. Maybe Harbhajan would like to have his say about that and look to make an impact."

Prince expects "some movement off the seam," but doesn't think the bowlers will be the only ones enjoying some time in the sun. "If it's 34 degrees and the pitch bakes, it will be a good wicket to bat on."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 19, 2010, 9:05 GMT

    I don't agree with the Sharma decision that was reversed. While it might have been the right thing in terms of rules, a 'referral' such as this, for me, is part of the referral system, which is not used in this series. What I don't understand is why exactly was this decision referred to the third umpire? Not any of the previous SA or Indian wickets was referred, why then specifically this one? I know that it was a line decision and that the umpires can request that the 3rd umpire review the line, but this is inconsistent application of the rules. I have no problem with it, but then every wicket need to be referred in order to verify the legality of the ball that was bowled. This is the very centre of the referral system, but it is not in play, so when, at the time when the umpire ruled the batsmen out, that particular decision should have stood as he did not rule a no-ball at the time of the delivery.

  • Kean on December 17, 2010, 17:39 GMT

    Kallis is way better than Kapil Dev, not even a contest.

  • John on December 16, 2010, 23:42 GMT

    Maqbool, its not right to compare players from different generations. Kallis is great but to say he is better than Kapil is wrong. Kapil led India to the WC victory beating West Indies for the first time...Kapil is a living legend.

  • Dummy4 on December 16, 2010, 8:39 GMT

    dont bring kallis in ur conversation. any allrounder hadtook 260wicktets with 11000thousands? no neither kapal dev did it nor flinttoff.kallis is all in all.260 wicktes more than 11000 runs and more than hundred catches in both form of games. if tendulkar is batting genuine than kallis is allrouder genuine.

  • ranjith on December 15, 2010, 22:46 GMT

    @shawn issac- Even lara agreed that sachin is the greatest batsman in his time.You have to go through all aspects of his life.Technic,Balance,Power,Shot selection,evolution to succeed with new generation, years the person played,social life.These characters makes him not only greatest cricketer also greatest sports person of the century.All sports persons have to learn from him, how to behave with public,how to run the life.He can't walk in the streets freely from last 20 years, he can't enjoy in his loved city for last 20 years.He even cannot take his children for shopping.Can you compare him with Lara or Warne at any point of time.The perfect man in sport.(Even tiger woods failed to maintain a peaceful family life without controversy being a player of individual game) .Sachin is the greatest sports person in this century, because of his all-round clean image being a most celebrated sports person.India loves him for the same.He is the greatest gentleman of gentleman's game.

  • ranjith on December 15, 2010, 22:27 GMT

    Morkel is not dreaming like other SA team.He knows who is who in the indian team after playing in IPL.SA also have a very good batting lineup, but pressure is clearly on SA,because india is not going to loose anything by loosing this series.they will even not loose their no.1 ranking.they will try to go all out against SA.this is the last tour for most of the senior players in SA and they are determined to make their contribution count and they have the mental toughness to succeed in SA.One more thing SA forgot is, if they make seamer friendly wicket, that also helps indian past bowlers, who are more talented than SA bowlers in helpful conditions.

  • ranjith on December 15, 2010, 22:17 GMT

    Indians are not bothered about the pace attach of styne and morkel.In india styne not made any impact as a front line bowler for royal challengers.Even he is dropped and replaced by praveen.Unkown players played him with confidence.Also bajji is not bothered about his batting.He like the bounce in the south african wickets and he will bowl wirh more confidence and it makes him the most dangerous bowler from both sides.I am requesting hethesh modi to keep quit till the end of first test and make some publicity for himself.

  • sugumar on December 15, 2010, 17:50 GMT

    some people always asks the questions but at the same time we (indian team) always have the answers, am going to give you guys some unbelievable stats about south africa, south africa have not won a single test series at home against australia for the last 40 years, i think this is the mother OF all worst records in tests, if a home team can't beat a foreign team in the last 40 years (in home conditions) that says all, south africa last won a test series against australia at home was way back in 1969-70 season, in current form even bangladesh would have won atleast 2 series in 40 years(ha ha), don't make us (indians) dig deeper it will be a humiliation for you, first look at your face in the mirror afterwards you can talk about india, if south africa have good bowling we have the best batting lineup in world cricket, we will show how ordinary the south african bowlers are, and our bowlers will also prove their worth by blowing away the south african batting lineup.

  • Kannan on December 15, 2010, 17:35 GMT

    Everyone knows that neither Ponting nor Kallis made All Time XI on any team: Neither Richie Benaud's Team nor the Cricinfo AllTime XI! Sachin made it to both!The great Don said Sachin played like him! Allan Donald called Sachin (& not Kallis/Ponting) the greatest! Well that is enough said! who is this kurtisMcgurtis? A troll by all means!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 15, 2010, 17:05 GMT

    @kvkrrish The ICC is trying to reduced the bad decisions and what did India do they said no to the 3rd umpire. Every one wants to see the right decision made at the end of the day. Tendulkar made the 200 against us in India and since then the 2 teams have not played in SA SO GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT. Second the SA team has done better in India WON 5 lost 5 drew 2 and what is the record of India in SA WON 1 LOST 11 DREW 1. So don't say that SA can't play on turning wickets. Lastly ONE man does not made a team. Sudayvan

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