South Africa news February 17, 2017

Morkel still in contention for Champions Trophy

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Morne Morkel's last ODI appearance came in June 2016 © Getty Images

Morne Morkel remains in South Africa's thoughts for the Champions Trophy despite the back injury that threatened his career. Morkel recently revealed that he had been told he may never return to action due to the problems caused by a bulging disc but is now set for his comeback in South Africa's domestic one-day tournament.

He has been given the extra incentive, if he needed any, of making a late bid for South Africa's one-day squad even though they currently sit on an 11-match unbeaten run ahead of the opening ODI against New Zealand in Hamilton.

"Someone like Morne Morkel has done really well in one-day cricket, [he] is someone who is on the outside [but] who is very much part of the plans," du Plessis, South Africa's T20 captain, said. "But everything is now up to his back and seeing how he responds to playing cricket, which he hasn't done for a very long time. It's how he comes back from that."

Morkel, who has taken 181 wickets at 24.60 in 108 ODIs, has potentially 10 group matches in the Momentum One-Day Cup to prove his fitness although it remains to be seen if he is put through all of them given the length of his lay-off. There is a thought he could yet push his way into the squad for the Test series in New Zealand, although after such a serious injury that would appear to be a risk.

However, the prospect of a one-day comeback is more realistic and opens up the possibility of a number of the pace bowlers currently in New Zealand playing off against each other for places in the final 15 for the Champions Trophy if a space needs to be found for Morkel.

AB de Villiers is South Africa's one-day captain and his thoughts will hold significant sway in the final make-up of the squad, but du Plessis spoke for both of them when he suggested any combination would leave the team well stocked.

"The guys who are here, you could pick any of them if Morne doesn't come through," he said. "I'd be very happy from a T20 point of view and I know AB from a one-day point of view is also very happy."

Kagiso Rabada, who was rested for the T20I at Eden Park, is a nailed-on starter but the rest of the pacemen are difficult to separate. Chris Morris' impressive new-ball burst in the T20, when he removed Glenn Phillips and Colin Munro with consecutive deliveries while also gaining significant bounce from the pitch, was timely and certainly impressed du Plessis

"For me it's a really nice challenge because I have a really young bowling unit, extremely eager to buy into what is needed on the day. Chris Morris, with the new ball, it is a relatively new job for him for the Proteas and I thought he bowled with really good heat."

Wayne Parnell, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius are the other pace bowlers in the current squad, while Vernon Philander is in the mix as well because of his ability to exploit English conditions with the white ball. Philander could well have been on the one-day leg of this tour if he hadn't needed to rest a minor ankle injury. There is much to play for over the next five matches in New Zealand.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • cricketcarl on February 19, 2017, 2:52 GMT

    Morkel at his best is unplayable, steep bounce with the ball nipping off the seam, but otherwise can be a bit 'up and down' without the pitch assistance. I think the myriad of coaching staff should have tweaked his bowling (pronounced BOling) action which could have got him bowling more outswingers to the right hander, this would have reduced the lean spells that probably occurred a tad too often, also not convinced that he pitches the ball regularly in the best spot for the type of bowler he is, but with that said, a great bowler, just want to see the best in players. ie. just do what Rabada does or maybe Hazlewood or Starc, or of course the greatest of them all McGrath.

  • Bazza_SAF on February 18, 2017, 14:24 GMT

    Altapatel... Morkel average bowler?? Oh you mean not like your "great" Indian fast bowlers.... LOL

  • King_Shaka on February 18, 2017, 8:51 GMT

    People seem to forget that Morne Morkel has always been sensational in ODI cricket. He has the best ODI record of any of our current quick bowlers. 181 wickets at 24.6 and economy of 4.95. Better than Rabada, Steyn, Abbott, Morris, Parnell. The question is just his current form after such a long layoff.

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2017, 3:07 GMT

    Morkel is average bowler. If you get better and younger player than him, there is obvious choice.

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2017, 3:06 GMT

    Forgot to mention, De Oliver aisi contender against him, so have to keep watch on his performance as well.

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2017, 3:04 GMT

    @KEEPCALMANDSLAPTHEUMPIRE Philander not proper ODI bowler? 120 in 10 overs ? Salute to your cricket knowledge. But keep it with only you.

  • AltafPatel on February 18, 2017, 3:02 GMT

    Abbott's Kolpak deal gave some life to him. Ngidi's performance will now decide his future.

  • Arkacric19 on February 18, 2017, 1:07 GMT

    Does any have any update on Dale Steyn and whether he will play the champions trophy?

  • CricketChat on February 17, 2017, 18:54 GMT

    With so many viable alternatives available, why is Morkel talked about so much? His match fitness must be iffy as he hasn't played a proper series in ages. His recall would only result in more Kolpak deals from SA further depleting their bench strength.

  • CheeseVanTonder on February 17, 2017, 17:23 GMT

    Morkel doesnt offer any batting ability and his bowling is at best equal with Parnell, Andile or Morris - so how exactly does he get into the team?

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