Morkel guarantees victory
The big paceman steps it up with career best figures of 5/21 before AB produces a sparkling knock in successful run chase
OUTH Africa restored parity in this one-day series, ignoring the oppressive heat, and the annoying flies to produce a performance more in keeping with the standards that they have set for themselves as a team recently.
If Friday was ugly – particularly in the field – yesterday’s showing had all the smooth
Selegant lines of the finest Italian supercar. South Africa were sharp in the field, throwing themselves about athletically, grabbing some stunning catches; even Imran Tahir got under a high one, called off his captain, and held the chance.
The bowling was fierce, aided by a pitch which in the heat of the last few days had hardened and quickened. It was to Morne Morkel’s liking, but not to batsmen on either side, bar AB de Villiers, who looks like he could thrive with the bat on the cratered surface of Comet 67P.
The make-up of the SA starting XI made it a necessity that the new balls had to be utilised well. Farhaan Behardien retained his place in the team, but Rilee Rossouw was brought in to replace out-of-sorts Ryan McLaren, so the team was a bowler light.
“It was important for us to step up,” said Morkel of the frontline bowlers.
Somewhat surprisingly he was given the first over ahead of Dale Steyn – Morkel saying it was an experiment in case either Vernon Philander or Steyn were to miss a match with a “tummy illness” or the flu. And it worked a treat, with Morkel getting the dangerous Dave Warner beautifully caught by a diving Quinton de Kock off the fifth ball of the match.
Making early inroads was going to be vital for the tourists with the fifth bowler’s ration set to come from De Villiers and Behardien. If Australia had been able to hang on, they could have taken advantage against Behardien’s useful, though still mainly gentle offerings. As it was they were two down in the fifth over, when Steyn removed Aaron Finch courtesy of a fine catch by Morkel at mid-on.
For good measure Behardien then removed Watson in his second over and when Steve Smith – who replaced Michael Clarke – was out two overs after that, the game was just about up.
It was a dream scenario for De Villiers, who could get through eight overs of part-time medium pace from Behardien, while firing away at the other end with the more established quick bowlers and leg-spinner Tahir.
Australia had just one partnership of note – a fifth wicket stand of 58 between George Bailey and Mitchell Marsh, the latter eventually finished the innings with an unbeaten 67 (88b, 3x4, 2x6).
“I know this sounds funny, but they caught everything today, and as we saw from Friday, that’s vitally important,” said Bailey, who will continue to lead the Australians, with Clarke out for the rest of the series. “They didn’t give us anything to hit, I don’t remember any cuts or pulls, and though they didn’t bowl a lot of bouncers, the threat of them was always there. It was just continuous pressure leading to wickets.”
Morkel finished with career best figures of 5/21 from eight overs, explaining that a lot of yes- terday’s success was down to better rhythm for the bowlers.
“On Friday we were a bit rusty and lacked rhythm. But with the wicket being a bit quicker today, it helped us to find our stride.”
The pursuit of the Australian target was not without its problems, and credit must go to Josh Hazlewood who picked up his first ODI ‘five-for’ in just his fourth match. De Villiers produced another sparkling knock of 48, and engaged in a compelling battle with Mitchell Johnson with the SA skipper initially dominant – taking three fours off Johnson’s fifth over. Australia’s top fast bowler came back in his next over though, touching up AB in the ribs and troubling him with deliveries bouncing sharply off a length.
The series heads to Canberra for the third match on Wednesday.
HOWZAT! Morne Morkel appeals for the wicket of Australia’s Matt Wade, caught behind by Quinton de Kock. Wade was initially given not out, but the decision was changed after a review.