Morkel peaks in time

2015-03-20 00:00

WITH his impressive performances so far at the World Cup, Morné Morkel has eventually taken his rightful place as a leader in the South African cricket team.

The 30-year-old beanpole has already struck 14 times in seven games at this year’s tournament, and has consistently been the most dangerous of the Proteas bowlers.

According to his captain AB de Villiers, it could not have happened at a better time.

The South Africans beat Sri Lanka by nine wickets on Wednesday in a quarter-final in Sydney that lasted just 55.2 overs. With that win came the Proteas’ first ever triumph in a World Cup knockout game.

Morkel only took one wicket — that of Kumar Sangakkara — yet he was a handful for the Sri Lankan batsmen from the outset.

“All of the bowlers were incredible [against Sri Lanka]. Dale [Steyn] and Kyle [Abbott] started well and our spinners [Imran Tahir and JP Duminy] were excellent, but this is probably the best I ever saw Morné bowl,” said De Villiers.

“I think a big reason is the recent success he has had with the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL (Indian Premier League),” he said, referring to the title Morkel won last year in the seventh edition of the lucrative T20 league.

“Since they won that trophy, there is a new faith in Morné’s eyes. He speaks with more confidence than in the past and he has now grown into one of the leaders in our attack. It’s not just Dale that should lead anymore — Morné suddenly has a large role, and he meets the expectations every time.”

De Villiers added that the role of spin cannot be underestimated in the closing stages of the tournament.

Tahir and Duminy dismissed seven of the 10 Sri Lankan batsmen.

Duminy also became the first Protea to ever take a hat-trick in the competition while Tahir — now with 15 — has taken more wickets than any other Proteas bowler.

“It will undoubtedly play an important role in the rest of the tournament. With the spinners, the tempo and the pace of the game changes completely,” said De Villiers.

“It’s the captain’s responsibility to ensure that the spinners are used in the right way and at the right time.”

De Villiers ensured that the squad will be very grounded come Tuesday, when they play their semi-final at Eden Park against either the West Indies or New Zealand. The Proteas arrived in Auckland yesterday.

“I still believe we have the right group of players to win the tournament, but we realise there is still hard work ahead. Yes, it was important to win [against Sri Lanka] and to celebrate, but now let us set ourselves up for the next challenge,” he said.

“We probably did not use much energy [against Sri Lanka], but it was still mentally exhausting.

“Fortunately, we have time to recover before the semi-final.”

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