Chris Morris or David Wiese could be the answer to the glaring absence of an all-rounder in the South African team and they will both be playing for the Unlimited Titans next season after Morris announced on Wednesday that he is leaving the bizhub Highveld Lions.
Morris is coming off a superb season for the Lions, playing a key role in their Sunfoil Series triumph as he topped their bowling averages with 32 wickets at 20.18 as well as averaging 30.11 with the bat.
And the 27-year-old says there isn’t any ill feeling towards the Lions, his decision was motivated by a desire to push himself further as a cricketer. Having played five ODIs and two T20 internationals for South Africa, Morris is clearly someone the national selectors should have in their plans moving forward.
“I’ve spent seven years at the Highveld Lions and it just feels like time for a change of scenery. I feel like I’ve fallen into a bit of a comfort zone at the Lions, apart from when Zander de Bruyn was still playing I’ve always been the main all-rounder and played every game in every format. I always give 100%, but maybe I’m not pushing myself enough.
“They have different methods and a different culture at the Titans, I’ve bought into Rob Walter’s plan and it’s an exciting time to join them. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, they don’t back down in training, but I’m a Pretoria boy originally, so it will be nice to come home. Plus the traffic has been killing me!” Morris told The Citizen.
Any team facing the Titans next season, especially in limited-overs cricket, could have the daunting task of tackling Morris and speedster Marchant de Lange with the new ball, while also having to deal with a lower-middle-order of Albie Morkel, Wiese and Morris.
“We’re very happy that a quality player like Chris is coming home, his family has a proud history with Northerns cricket through his dad Willie, he’s a top performer, he can play in all three formats and, having got to know him while he was in Potchefstroom, I know he has a lot of tenacity,” Jacques Faul, the CEO of the Titans, said.
Morris is happy with the form he showed in the just-completed 2014/15 season, he took 12 wickets in the RamSlam T20 Challenge and had a strike-rate of 173.33 with the bat, but his Momentum One-Day Cup campaign was limited to just three games by injury.
“First it was the ankle op and then the rib-tip fracture, so it’s been nice to be playing, especially in such an excellent unit. With Hardus Viljoen, Kagiso Rabada and Dwaine Pretorius alongside me, there’s been pressure from all sides. Every day is a fishing day but not very day is a catching day, but I felt like I was firing on all cylinders, the Lions had a senior role for me and it was a nice responsibility,” Morris said.
Aggression is a key part of Morris’s bowling and there is no doubt the lanky paceman earned some wickets for his colleagues at the other end with the unrelenting pressure he exerted.
“When I was 16 I asked Curtly Ambrose about aggression and he asked me if I want to hold the batsman’s hand. He said I must make it as uncomfortable as possible for the batsman. So I’m a firm believer in playing hard, I like to feel that we’re in a battle and I try to hurt the batsman, obviously not badly of course,” Morris said.
The wise counsel of Neil McKenzie, who announced his retirement from four-day cricket earlier this week, has also led to an improvement in Morris’s batting and the use of the short ball is no longer as effective as it was against him.
“I’m very chuffed with my batting this season, I’ve been working with Neil, especially on the short ball which had become a bit of an issue, and I got my confidence back. I think I was over-complicating things, see-ball, hit-ball has always been my natural game.
“Previously, I knew the short ball was coming but now I just play it when it arrives. I’ve also had a bit more responsibility with the bat, but I still try to be attacking. If it comes off great, if not, I can make up for it with the ball,” Morris said.
The lure of a Green and Gold Proteas Test cap is still there for Morris and he is hoping a fresh environment will provide the spark for him to get there.
“I will always push hard to play for South Africa, obviously my ambition is to play Test cricket, but I think I’m still behind a couple of guys. There’s still a way to go, it will take a lot of hard work, but we all know there’s a spot in the Proteas team that needs to be filled. At the moment Ryan McLaren would be the man for me, but it’s a dream of mine as well,” Morris said.