20 years on, Morris to emulate Klusener?

Chris Morris (Gallo)
Chris Morris (Gallo)

Cape Town - Ever since the days of Lance Klusener, South African cricket has struggled to find consistent big-hitting match winners down the order in their ODI side. 

Klusener's heroics at the 1999 World Cup remain, almost 19 years later, etched into the minds of cricket lovers in this country.

His ability to find the fence in pressure situations made him a trump card for the Proteas back then, and with the likes of Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher also in that lower order, South Africa had firepower deep into their batting line-up and you always felt they could win matches late. 

Since then, though, successful bowling all-rounders with the ability to consistently win matches with the bat have been few and far between. 

Justin Kemp is probably the most successful of that ilk, having played in 85 ODIs between 2001 and 2007. The tall, strong right-hander averaged 31.5 with the bat at a strike rate of 83.12 - more than respectable numbers.

It was Albie Morkel, though, who looked to be the natural and obvious successor to Klusener. His clean, long-hitting has been a thing of beauty over the years and he has won many matches for the Titans, but for some reason he never quite clicked at international level. Morkel scored just two half-centuries in 58 ODIs for South Africa between 2004 and 2012 at an average of 23.69, and those numbers came nowhere near delivering on the promise that was shown. 

Things haven't gotten any better since then. 

That is not to say that South Africa have not been dominant in ODI cricket - they certainly have - but one area of concern over the years has been the lack of explosive hitters down the order who can get the job done when the chips are down. 

Wayne Parnell, Ryan McLaren and David Wiese have all been given cracks and, more recently, the likes of Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo have had opportunities. 

In between those experiments, Chris Morris has gone about notching up 29 ODI caps for the Proteas. 

Dubbed the 'Million Dollar Man' at the beginning of 2016 when he signed a massive IPL deal with the Delhi Daredevils, Morris has also not lived up to that hype on the international stage. 

He has had his battles with injury, particularly in 2017, but he is now back to full fitness and ready to go ahead of six ODIs against India.

With plans for the 2019 World Cup well underway, the Proteas are trying to find their combinations ahead of that tournament, and they would like Morris to be a part of what they settle on. 

"Chris is coming off quite a few injuries. It’s good to have him back. He’s a very effective white ball player and we’re hoping to see the best of him again," skipper Faf du Plessis said ahead of the first ODI in Durban on Thursday.

"It’s important for us a team that he gets good opportunities and starts winning games for South Africa. If you look ahead to a year and a half’s time, he is someone that has the capability to do something special in a big tournament."

A bowler with natural pace and the skill to mix it up at the death, it is Morris's hitting ability that makes him an attractive option for the Proteas. 

He has played some blistering knocks in the IPL as well as on the domestic circuit, and he can turn matches in a matter of balls when he gets it right, but Morris needs to start playing those innings in the green and gold.

He averages just 20.25 with the bat in ODI cricket, though his strike rate is a healthy 100.25. Those numbers need to improve. 

Given the fleeting moments of serious ability that we have seen over the years, Morris certainly has the potential to be a match-winner for this side. 

When 2019 does roll around, 20 years will have passed since Klusener took the world by storm in England. In the same country, two decades later, it is Morris looking like the man most capable of repeating those heroics. 

Follow Sport24's @LloydBurnard on Twitter ...

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