Albie Morkel is back in the national team for the series against Australia and the ICC World T20 in Bangladesh, giving South Africa one of the most threatening batting line-ups in the competition.
The Unlimited Titans all-rounder is returning to the Green and Gold after an absence of two years, stretching back to the previous edition of the T20 world cup, in Sri Lanka.
Morkel is back to his best form, showing in the RamSlam T20 Challenge that he can still tan the hides of bowlers with 202 runs at a strike-rate of 127 and an average of 28. With the likes of AB de Villiers, JP Duminy and David Miller batting above him, South Africa can be bullish about the hitting power they will bring to Bangladesh.
“When you look at his experience, we all know what Albie has done in the past; the conditions we’ll be playing in, he’s played in the sub-continent for a long time and done well; and his domestic form, he’s a great finisher to bat behind David Miller at 7; then it was an easy decision,” selection convenor Andrew Hudson said yesterday.
Despite his international career seemingly being over, Morkel did not allow the disappointment to curdle his work ethic or ambition and he put in plenty of hard work to ensure he was one of the Titans’ stars as they claimed a couple of last-ditch victories to make the T20 Challenge playoffs, where they lost to the eventual champions, the Dolphins.
“I’m excited about being back, it’s something that wasn’t part of my plans at the start of the season. I put in the hard work, but that doesn’t always guarantee success. My mindset has changed and I’ve learnt to let go of the disappointment that comes with the territory in my role: You need to make a play and score quick runs under pressure, and the success rate of the best finishers is around 50/50. So you have to understand that you’re going to have more disappointments than successes,” Morkel told The Pretoria News.
Morkel has effectively taken the place of fellow Titans all-rounder David Wiese, who endured a wretched T20 Challenge, but there was also good news for Farhaan Behardien, who returns to the national squad after a great run in the domestic competition. The 30-year-old was the sixth highest run-scorer with 288 at a strike-rate of 129 and an average of 36.
Behardien is another man who has bounced back after being dished up disappointment by the national selectors following a dreadful ODI series in Sri Lanka in the middle of last year, when he scored just three runs in three innings.
“I was a little bit disappointed to not be in the mix against Pakistan because I felt I still had something to offer in the T20s. But I’ve learnt from my experiences in Sri Lanka and I’m enjoying the responsibility of generally batting anywhere between three and six for the Titans and trying to manage the innings,” Behardien said.
Those activists striving for a more representative national team will be pleased that two Black Africans have made the cut in Highveld Lions bowlers Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Aaron Phangiso, while Quinton de Kock and Imran Tahir were also chosen from the struggling Southern Gauteng franchise.
The Mumbai Indians were clearly not the only ones to be impressed by Cape Cobras speedster Beuran Hendricks, as he received his first call-up to the national squad days after receiving an IPL contract.
Captain Faf du Plessis said the Proteas were now blessed with plenty of bowling options, with another left-arm quick in Wayne Parnell joining the established duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.
“Beuran is right up there in terms of skill and he brings a lot of variety. Our fast bowlers have been very successful in the sub-continent plus we have good options in our spinners, with JP bowling very well at the moment and I can also turn my arm over if need be,” Du Plessis said.
Hendricks forced his way into the squad by taking a record 28 wickets, at an economy rate of marginally over 7 in the T20 Challenge and Hudson said he had the ability to both strike up front and bowl at the death.
Morkel is going to be a key figure for South Africa at the death when it comes to batting and he said it was a daunting challenge he was looking forward to.
“There’s always pressure in that role whether you’re playing for Tukkies or the Titans, and I look forward to it. In those conditions, it’s very difficult to bat at the end of the innings, it’s easier against the new ball. You’re often up against lots of spin and slower balls, with the wicketkeeper up, so you can’t use the pace of the ball.
“I’ve been working on ways to get off strike otherwise the opposition can put you under pressure early on,” Morkel said.