South Africa rue missing Morkels
South Africa are hoping to welcome back the Morkel brothers as they attempt to boost their firepower with bat and ball for the second match in the NatWest Series against England.
The tourists lost their first one-day international for 10 matches at Headingley Carnegie when they subsided to a 20-run defeat without the Morkels - fast bowler Morne was suffering from a side strain and hard-hitting all-rounder Albie was ruled out with a worrying shoulder problem.
But as they prepare for Tuesday’s second game in the five-match series at Trent Bridge, the tourists are hoping four days recovery will allow them both to return and help South Africa deliver a performance more in keeping with a side aiming to reclaim the top spot in the world one-day rankings.
“Morne and Albie are certainly in our first-choice starting line-up, so to have both of them out was a big disappointment,” admitted coach Mickey Arthur.
“We wanted to come out and play with our first choice side and what it does is that it also disrupts our balance hugely.
"At number seven and number eight we didn’t have a guy who can hit the ball out of the ground.
“When you’re needing a big over Albie is the guy who can hit it out of the ground for you.
"We had Johan Botha and Vernon Philander who can work it around quite nicely but they needed to be batting with someone who was in and who could hit boundaries at will, so that was a pity.”
The tourists were stunned by a 158-run partnership off 129 balls between new captain Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff which propelled England to 275 for four, including 95 off the final 10 overs of the innings.
Despite keeping up with the required run-rate for most of the innings, a lack of firepower in the middle order undermined South Africa’s reply and they eventually capitulated to 255 all out.
Arthur is confident Morne will return for Trent Bridge, but big brother Albie’s problem is more of a mystery and his absence is arguably a bigger loss to South Africa.
He has an impressive strike-rate of 85.19 with the bat from his 24 one-day internationals, which compares favourably with the two biggest hitters in England’s line-up, Pietersen and Flintoff, both of whom sore at 87 runs per 100 balls.
His performances at Twenty20 level have been even more destructive and he holds a career strike-rate of 133, while he already has form against England having smashed 43 off only 20 balls during last year’s meeting between the two sides in the ICC World Twenty20.
He faces several days of intense treatment to try and get him ready for Nottingham, and Arthur admitted: “To be honest, I’m a little bit worried about him.
“We’re hoping to give him an injection and the physio is working with him all the time. We thought he could have played in the Twenty20 (at Durham last week) and yesterday he bowled 12 balls and he felt it slightly.
“I could see that when he bowled, even though it was indoors off a short run-up, that he was labouring and wasn’t confident to pull through with his action because of that strain. There was not point playing him and we hope another four days will make him 100 per cent right.”
Those four days will also be spent, weather permitting, working on what went wrong at Headingley after none of their batsmen were able to steer South Africa home while their bowling was off-track during the final stages of the innings to allow England to set a competitive target.
“We need to work on our death bowling because we went for 95 in the last 10 overs,” stressed Arthur. “I don’t want to make any excuses but we haven’t been able to practise outdoors and the bowlers were unable to do it indoors.
“We saw all of the top-order get in but nobody took it through so that was disappointing and being rusty or having a lack of preparation doesn’t affect that. When your batters get in they should take it through.
“Every loss hurts a lot and the worrying thing is we didn’t play very well and I thought England played very well.
“But if you look at England in terms of their spectrum they were probably about five per cent off the best game they could play and we were 20 per cent off ours and yet we got within 20 runs and that’s been my message to the guys.”