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WA's new 'Wild Thing' Lance Morris hopes to get even faster

The 24-year-old tearaway is turning heads in all forms and is regarded by some domestic batters as the fastest bowler in Australia

Lance Morris walks off after his five-wicket haul against NSW  •  Getty Images

Lance Morris walks off after his five-wicket haul against NSW  •  Getty Images

Having ripped through a hapless New South Wales with a career-best match haul of nine wickets on a trademark bouncy WACA pitch, moustached speedster Lance Morris cut a menacing figure as he led his Western Australia teammates off the field to a rousing ovation from the smattering of fans in the terraces.
No one looked happier than WA's new bowling coach Tim Macdonald, who was understandably grinning from ear to ear after 24-year-old Morris' statement to start the Sheffield Shield season.
Morris bowled consistently quick, peaking over 150kph, to sit alongside Tasmania paceman Riley Meredith, who has represented Australia in the shorter formats, as the fastest bowler in the country.
"I think that's probably No.1 [quickest] I've faced in my Shield career. He was fast and it was No.1 in terms of absolutely consistent pace," said NSW captain Kurtis Patterson, who was teammates with Morris at Perth Scorchers last BBL season.
"He's one of the most improved bowlers out there and very exciting."
Dubbed 'The Wild Thing' - in a nod to former tearaway Shaun Tait - after bursting onto the scene five years ago during a tour game against England at the WACA, where he notably bowled a wayward short delivery first up to Joe Root, Morris has developed a reputation for testing the speed radar.
"I'm an attacking and intimidating bowler," Morris told ESPNcricinfo. "I can get to the early 150s [kph]. I'm just settling into my body now. They say around 26 is when you basically mature as a bowler. I've got still room to get faster."
During his brief first-class career, having played 16 matches since debuting in October 2020, Morris has been earmarked by WA's hierarchy as an enforcer, particularly on the WACA's fast deck where he peppers batters with searing bouncers backed by a slew of leg-side fielders.
"They tell me: 'go out and just bowl fast'," Morris said about the mantra driven by coach Adam Voges. "It's given me confidence and I enjoy the role."
But so far this season, starting with his 5 for 36 off 18 overs in NSW's first innings, Morris has been more rounded and his bowling is often supported by a packed slips cordon underlining his greater control and accurate line and length. He's taken 15 wickets in three Shield matches at 17.93 with an economy of 3.29.
"The more I bowl, the more I feel like I'm really grasping what being a fast bowler is all about. Hopefully, I can keep getting better and continue to bowl fast because it's a lot of fun."
Lance Morris
Last season, when he played all eight matches in Western Australia's Shield triumph, Morris claimed 20 wickets at 27.05 with an economy of 3.88.
"He's always been able to bowl fast," said WA stand-in captain Sam Whiteman. "Sometimes we used him to just bowl short stuff, but he's worked on hitting a good length and can nick guys off. He can better contain and build pressure, so we can use three slips now.
"It's reward for a big pre-season."
After helping WA break a 23-year Shield drought, where he ended the season strongly, Morris felt upbeat knowing he had cemented a spot in a team with a reservoir of pace talent.
"To be fit and play all the red ball games...that was a big stepping stone. It was a really big step up for me," he said.
With the help of then-WA bowling coach Matt Mason, Morris had started simplifying his run up to ensure he maximises his momentum into the crease and it's a process that's ongoing with Macdonald.
"When you try to bowl as fast as you can for long periods, your body just takes quite a beating," Morris said. "It's about trying to bowl economically and make it easier on my body. The technical stuff is a long-term thing."
Morris eyed bowling longer spells, while maintaining high speeds, but to do that he knew he had to get physically stronger. It wasn't easy for the innately lean Morris, who doesn't stack on the pounds.
Fortunately, his culinary skills are quite handy - though he prefers returning home to the picturesque coastal town of Dunsborough for his mum's cooking - as Morris increased his dietary intake and gained five kilograms in the off-season.
"I've already lost two-to-three kilos," laughed Morris. "When you play cricket, you start losing weight. But in the off-season, I ate a lot and hit the gym, especially in an effort to get stronger in the lower body.
"It's helped me so far this season."
Morris' eye-catching start to the season also included roughing up India during an unofficial warm-up match at the WACA ahead of the T20 World Cup.
Conjuring extra zing off the pitch, with wicket-keeper Josh Philippe standing well back, Morris particularly troubled KL Rahul with short-pitched deliveries and claimed the wickets of Deepak Hooda and Axar Patel in WA XI's 36-run win.
"Going up against guys who I watch play in the IPL was very cool," he said. "I didn't have anything to lose and it was an opportunity to impress."
Unfortunately, there was no broadcast of the BCCI-sanctioned match, but he's set to gain wider attention with Morris tipped to figure in Australia's T20 renewal after their failed title defence at the T20 World Cup.
With pace bowling undergoing somewhat of a renaissance during the tournament, Morris looms as an intriguing option down the track for Australia's hierarchy contemplating a T20 future beyond incumbents Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
"It was exciting for me to watch someone like Mark Wood bowl at Perth Stadium and the impact fast bowling can have in that format," he said. "I want to get up to the next level and represent Australia."
With higher honours in his sights, Morris will be under pressure to crack BBL defending champions Perth Scorchers' star-studded line-up having been on the fringes last season.
But before then, before expectations rise, Morris wants to simply enjoy honing his craft and, naturally, keep bowling mighty quick.
"The more I bowl, the more I feel like I'm really grasping what being a fast bowler is all about," he said. "Hopefully I can keep getting better and continue to bowl fast because it's a lot of fun."

Tristan Lavalette is a journalist based in Perth