Morne Morkel makes a return to Test match cricket

Following a 3–2 series victory over hosts New Zealand in the one day internationals, the Proteas now shift their attention to the longer format.

The first of three Test matches against the Black Caps gets underway at the University Oval in Dunedin today (8 March).

Lanky right-arm quick, Morne Morkel makes a welcome return to the set-up. Morkel, who last featured in a Test match in January last year, has been included in the side to bolster a well-balanced attack.

The Proteas enter the series with confidence and a desire to continue with their unbeaten series record this season. “When we started the season we were under pressure with results not going our way,” Proteas captain, Faf du Plessis admitted at a press briefing in Dunedin ahead of the first Test. “… we have had a successful season in Tests and ODIs. We have confidence that comes from winning.”

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According to the skipper, the experience and consistency Morkel offers will be invaluable, especially with the bounce he extracts from the pitch and the tricky angles he bowls to left-handers. Together with Vernon Philander, they are the only bowlers to have played in the last Test series in New Zealand in 2012. Philander was the leading wicket-taker in that series, taking 21 scalps at a remarkable strike rate of 29.0, while Morkel finished with 10 wickets at an economy of just 2.53, including 6/23 in the final drawn Test in Wellington.

“Test cricket and experience go hand-in-hand,” added Du Plessis. “Vernon and Morne have played in New Zealand before,

obviously, Vernon in these conditions will be a handful. We have three completely different bowlers in our attack. As an opposition, it’s tough to face three different bowlers along with the spinner. Our attack is very well balanced.”

Du Plessis said the Kiwis had quite a few left-handers in their batting line-up and Morkel had been successful against ‘lefties’. “That is one of the main reasons that he probably got the nod ahead of Duanne [Olivier]. You need to make sure you pick your strongest team for the players you are playing against.”

He added that Olivier was going to play a huge role for the team going forward. “It gives us another opportunity to have him with us this whole series. I do think that conditions with the ball might swing [going forward), a bit of pace… he can still be a factor to challenge for a spot in our strongest eleven.”

Tshepiso Mametela

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