Pressure on Levi, Morkel to shape up

2012-09-12 00:00

GETTING their primary power-hitting factors Richard Levi and Albie Morkel into some sort of groove will be a keen Proteas’ wish when they wind up their tour of England with the third Twenty20 international at Edgbaston tonight.

Neither of the known boundary-seekers — Levi at the top of the order and Morkel as an intended middle-order “finisher” — has yet been able to post a meaningful score in the mini-series.

Levi got a first-baller in the severely reduced and eventually abandoned second contest at Old Trafford on Monday, being caught off a wide delivery from Steven Finn down the leg side, and failed to reach double figures in the first match at Chester-le-Street.

The more experienced Morkel, meanwhile, holed out for three in Manchester and did not get to the crease in the opener, which South Africa won 1-0. They cannot be eclipsed in the series now as the action shifts further south to Birmingham.

The left-handed Morkel had been with the national squad during the ODI series in England, but has had no game time in the Test and 50-over series as he has been recuperating from injury.

So unless either (or both) gets among the runs today, they will go onward to the ICC World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka next week minus the benefit of personal form at the crease, although Morkel has looked fairly decent with the ball in brief opportunities.

Theirs is a high-risk, tricky trade in this format, where the pressure on them to be potential match-winners is ever-present.

But at the same time, it is probably fair to say a certain amount of heat has been mounting on them to be more consistently prominent for their country’s T20 cause.

The burly, 24-year-old Levi has played six T20 internationals and not yet come even remotely close again to repeating his whirlwind 117 not out off 51 deliveries against New Zealand in Hamilton earlier this year.

His next best score for the Proteas is 19. Is Levi simply a one-innings wonder, or perhaps even too much of an indelicate slogger?

These are issues the Cape Cobras player may gradually have to contend with, whether unfairly or not, unless he discovers some more regular mojo.

Otherwise the curtailed affair was reasonably useful to both sides, while it lasted, in terms of practising playing under “reduced overs” circumstances.

While each team’s innings basically turned into a lottery, and Hashim Amla anchored the visitors’ charge, coach Gary Kirsten would have been heartened with the professional, cool-headed short stint in the field, where the Proteas kept England in check.

Morné Morkel bowled a wonderfully economical two overs, and both he and Robin Peterson also grasped excellent outfield catches.

Proteas assistant coach Russell Domingo said yesterday that Monday evening’s bash gave the team ideal preparation leading into the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka.

“I don’t think the national side have been involved in a lot of those shorter type of games, so going to the World T20 where those situations could be a possibility is probably a great exercise for us,” Domingo said.

“It gave us some idea of how to approach our innings, how to approach our defence when we’re bowling and our strategies in those situations.

“There was massive value in having a shortened version because that is a distinct possibility going into a World Cup.”

Domingo praised Dale Steyn and Morné Morkel, who bowled superbly in the opening overs, showing impressive degrees of control and composure given the high-pressure situation.

Kirsten will miss the final game tonight as he returns to South Africa to spend time with his family. He will join up with the T20 squad on Sunday in Sri Lanka, ahead of the ICC World T20 starting in a week.

Sporadic time away from the game has been a strong characteristic of Kirsten’s management style since he took over the role 15 months ago.

He said: “ I have made a decision to go home and to see my family and that was something that was always been part of my thinking when I took up this job.

“I think it will also be good for the team, just to have me out of the space for a little bit and to see how the ship runs.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how that unfolds.”

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