Morris prepared for death-overs test
Chris Morris described 2013 as a "rollercoaster", but not even that description does enough justice to the year he has had so far. He had played two Twenty20s in December last year, and perhaps put his name in the IPL auction in the hope that someone in India had taken notice. They had done much more than that. A bidding war erupted between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians and within minutes, Morris had gone from being a domestic cricketer to an IPL millionaire, going for USD $625,000, which was equivalent to about 5.5 million Rand, at the time.
Having been one of the few big buys to justify his franchise's investment in the tournament, he left his kit bag in India not expecting to need it anytime soon, only to be called into South Africa's Champions Trophy side, after Morne Morkel was withdrawn due to injury. A semi-final finish followed and, though his side had a mixed tournament, Morris emerged with his reputation embellished.
In Sri Lanka, he now faces the prospect of being one of South Africa's key bowlers, with both Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in doubt, and Dale Steyn not travelling. The limelight has chased him across continents since February and, though he has only played three ODIs, Morris feels he is ready to take centre-stage.
"It's a massive honour to be one of the frontline bowlers for South Africa," he said, ahead of the first ODI. "It's something that I've dreamed of since I was young. When there's pressure, that fighter comes out in me. I've got a bit of white-line fever and when I cross that line, I become a different person."
He's had to learn a lot in the past few months. He took 15 wickets in the IPL at a tidy average, and economy rate, playing in 16 of his side's 18 matches. In England, he also adapted to the drier surfaces quickly, and took four wickets in three outings. He was one of South Africa's best bowlers in the warm-up in Colombo, collecting three for 27 including both openers, in his first spell. Morris says the experience he gained in India and the expertise of the bowling staff has helped him change his game to suit Sri Lanka's conditions.
"Mentally and tactically, my experience in India helped a lot. Working with guys that have played a lot here helps as well. Chennai's bowling coach, Andy Bichel was a well of information for me in terms of what I needed to do, my plans and what I was thinking. Having Allan Donald in the South Africa set-up, as well, is hard to beat. There are different tactics and different fielding positions than I would have back home. I would say, 'Right, move him a bit straighter and him a bit squarer,' because he pitch is a bit slower.
"It's good to experience new kinds of mental and physical toughness, as well. The heat is worse than India here at the moment. Chennai was really cooking, but what I experienced in the practice match, I haven't experienced in my life before. By about my fourth over, my head was about to burst."
In the absence of the senior fast bowlers, and given AB de Villiers' suggestion that South Africa would look to field two specialist spinners for every game, Morris may also be called on to bowl at the death. It is an area South Africa have been woeful at in the recent past, but Morris has experience performing that role for his domestic franchise, and hopes he can be part of his side's solution.
"Someone's got to take responsibility and say they want to bowl at the death. I've put my hand up here. I did the same at the Lions. It's a place we've struggled and it's where we've lost games in the past. You've got to have a thick skin for it. If you get hit, you get hit, but it's very satisfying when you come out on top - when you plan to bowl a yorker and you nail it.
"We're playing against an unbelievable Sri Lankan side who are good in their own conditions. You've got to put guys behind the keeper these days, but I back myself to nail those yorkers and if I don't, it's part of the game. You don't see Daniel Carter getting every kick over, and he's the best in the world."
De Villiers has liked what he's seen so far from Morris as well, and is confident inexperience won't count against the South Africa attack on Saturday. The Premadasa surface may have some seam for the new ball bowlers, but is likely to be of more assistance to the slow bowlers.
"Chris looks the part at the moment. He's a very promising bowler and there's lots of potential there. There's no better place than a subcontinent country to really test your skills, on flat wickets where you don't get a lot of assistance for the seam bowlers. It will be a great run in for him and Rory Kleinveldt, and maybe even a chance for them to win a game or two."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here