South Africa news February 17, 2017

Morkel still in contention for Champions Trophy

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