TELFORD VICE, Nagpur
SACHIN Tendulkar made many bowlers look silly during his storied career, and one day-night at Jamtha in Nagpur it fell to Morne Morkel to provide the punchline.
Many batsmen not of Tendulkar’s quality would have pounced on the too straight, too full last ball of the eighth over of a World Cup match here on March 12 2011.
So Tendulkar himself had no trouble driving Morkel’s errant delivery straight and true as an arrow and between the bowler’s ankles for four. Not that the soaring seamer didn’t do his damnedest to stoop and stop the spanked ball.
He bowed. He scraped. He didn’t get a hand on it. Instead, he performed what could be called the converse of the Indian rope trick, starting off stiff and upright and then crumpling into a limp heap. He finished flat on his backside in the middle of the pitch.
All the picture needed to be complete was a red nose on Morkel’s face, which gazed plaintively up at Tendulkar, still in his follow through, wondering what the hell had just happened.
In those terms, Morkel might have been relieved on Monday when, on his return to Jamtha ahead of the start of the third test on Wednesday, his own game took a back seat.
First and foremost, what news of Dale Steyn and his groin strain?
“Dale bowled at nets this morning, which was a pleasing thing for us to see,” Morkel said. “We’ll keep monitoring it and give him until nine o’clock on Wednesday morning (when the toss takes place) to decide.
“Dale is the No. 1 test bowler in the world and he’s dying to get out there and do his magic.”
Fair enough, but it’s a good thing Morkel once opened the batting in a test: why have SA’s batsmen struggled against India’s spinners?
“It’s a matter of us being mentally tough to absorb the pressure when they’re bowling well, to fight through it.
“If you get a good ball, then you get a good ball. It’s a matter of sticking to our gameplans – grind it out and try and bat deep.”
What’s happened to the form of Hashim Amla, who has scored 50 runs in three innings and suffered his first duck in 15 trips to the test crease that have featured two undefeated centuries and a double hundred?
“Hashim is a rock for us. He’s hungry to score some runs. He’s been hitting a lot of balls. Hopefully his time comes in this test match. Fingers crossed.”
Will SA opt for three spinners?
“It’s going to depend on Dale and his fitness what we go with.”
And there was more were those came from …
Temba Bavuma batted for a long time in the nets on Monday with Amla in close attention. Might the pint-sized counter-puncher get a game on Tuesday?
Marchant de Lange is fresh off the plane. What would he bring to SA’s attack?
Each time, Morkel gave what he no doubt hoped was the right answer – and perhaps wondered why he seemed to be of no interest to his questioners.
Maybe part of the reason is that, on March 12 2011, Tendulkar slashed once too often at Morkel and was caught at point for 111.
Not just that, SA won. Just like they won a test by an innings at this ground in 2010.
Now there’s a pack of punchlines Indians won’t want to pick.