Morkel finds his happy place as ca­reer winds down

There is never, ever any love lost in a lo­cal derby. But to­mor­row’s Lions-Sharks clash at El­lis Park will have even more bite than usual be­cause it’s Super Rugby quar­ter-fi­nal time. says the Lions will win. says the Sharks will win. Here’s why …

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

MIGHT MORNE Morkel call time on his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer af­ter South Africa’s tour of Eng­land is over?

Morkel is stat­ing the ob­vi­ous when he says his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer is closer to the end than the be­gin­ning, but by adding it “is nearly fin­ished,” there’s a sense he’s thought about call­ing time on life as an in­ter­na­tional crick­eter.

He’ll be 33 in October, has played 76 Test as part of a ca­reer that’s spanned 11 years and al­though he ad­mits he’s phys­i­cally in good shape, thoughts have turned to life be­yond cricket. “I’m go­ing to en­joy now. And see how far we go. I don’t know,” he said. “Af­ter this tour we’ll see.” Morkel wants to meet with Cricket South Africa to dis­cuss his fu­ture. He says he’s not sure if he wants to fo­cus on just one for­mat and he needs to know if he’s part of the plans for the 2019 World Cup.

A large part of those dis­cus­sions will be de­ter­mined by who­ever the na­tional team’s new coach is, a de­ci­sion that will be taken at Cricket SA’s board meet­ing to­day.

“I’ve been blessed, I’m very flex­i­ble. My sup­ple­ness and my con­di­tion­ing’s been good over the years, I re­ally look af­ter my body, men­tally and phys­i­cally I feel strong, (the World Cup) is two years down the line, it’s de­ci­sion they (CSA) need to make, I’ll fo­cus on this year and see how we go from there.”

Morkel was ar­guably South Africa’s best bowler at the re­cent ICC Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy, bowl­ing more con­sis­tently than per­haps his rep­u­ta­tion sug­gests. His ag­gres­sion pro­vided One-Day cap­tain AB de Vil­liers with an im­por­tant at­tack­ing op­tion.

The drive and fo­cus with which he op­er­ated in that tour­na­ment has been car­ried through to this Test se­ries and Morkel has worn a steely look at train­ing and dur­ing play. Dean El­gar reck­oned it was be­cause he’s no longer in Dale Steyn’s shadow and be­cause he’s needed to step to the fore as a leader.

Morkel was in a re­flec­tive mood af­ter Trent Bridge, re­call­ing how as a 19-year-old, play­ing club cricket for En­don CC in the Not­ting­hamshire leagues, he’d taken a Satur­day off to come and watch the Proteas play in 2003. “To play (at Trent Bridge) and to win a Test match there now is what dreams are made of.

“Ev­ery time I get the ball I re­ally just want to en­joy the mo­ment and ex­press my­self. In the past I put my­self un­der a lot of pres­sure, but those days are gone. I know how quickly a ca­reer can change … for me it’s just to go out there in ev­ery spell and give it my best

“I know what to ex­pect here, it’s im­por­tant as a se­nior player to stand up. We don’t have the lux­ury of a guy like Dale Steyn so it’s im­por­tant for me to try and lead the at­tack ... al­though we have a lot of in­di­vid­ual lead­ers. KG’s done so well when he’s got the ball in hand, Vern’s done ex­cep­tion­ally well.”

Morkel was very much in the spot­light af­ter South Africa’s de­feat at Lord’s where, de­spite some good spells of bowl­ing, the no-balls and the poor strat­egy against Eng­land’s tail-en­ders proved costly.

“It’s im­por­tant to have per­sonal re­flec­tion; you need to look your­self in the mir­ror and ask your­self all the ques­tions … ‘did we lose the Test or did they re­ally beat us?’ The sort of cricket we played there at times was that of a team that hasn’t played Test cricket for a while,” re­marked Morkel. “I felt, bar one or two overs, that my rhythm was quite good dur­ing the Lord’s Test. I knew if I bowled a few ex­tra overs with the red ball – to get into the dis­ci­plines of Test cricket – I’d be better in time.

South Africa didn’t bowl a sin­gle no-ball at Trent Bridge and while Morkel only claimed two wick­ets in the match his com­bi­na­tion with Ver­non Phi­lan­der, es­pe­cially against Eng­land’s left-hand top or­der trio, was dev­as­tat­ing.

The pres­sure he cre­ated through some lengthy spells al­lowed the rest of the at­tack to flour­ish.

“I’m a mas­sive fan of (play­ing four fast bowlers), it gives you the op­por­tu­nity to bowl longer spells. There’s non­stop pres­sure on the bat­ters.”

That en­thu­si­asm is en­cour­ag­ing, but it’s an in­di­ca­tion of a player that wants to have no re­grets when his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer is over – which may be closer than many people think.

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