TELFORD VICE, Johannesburg
CHRIS Morris was born in Pretoria, still lives there and plays for the Titans. So did his father, Willie – for Northern Transvaal in those pre-franchise days. But that doesn’t mean Morris minor’s Afrikaans is up to scratch.
“Afrikaans? My wife’s Afrikaans; not me, hey. No, I’m not that comfortable in Afrikaans. They’re the Blue Bulls not the Blou Bulle.”
That was how Morris made plain his monolingualism at a press conference at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Tuesday when he was asked if he would answer a question in the language prevalent on the northern side of the Boerewors Curtain.
Clearly, what you see with Morris is not what you get. England discovered that to their cost during his test debut at Newlands last week, when he recovered from a pasting of 1/150 in the visitors’ first innings to score 69 and take 1/24 in the second innings.
What had he learnt from the first innings?
“Don’t bowl to Ben Stokes,” who smashed 258 off 198 balls. But that didn’t curb his enthusiasm: “I’m just happy to be here. If I’m contributing to the team going forward, I’m like a pig in mud.”
That should earn the approval of AB de Villiers, who will captain a team in a first-class match for the first time when he leads SA against England in the third test at the Wanderers on Thursday.
“He expects the best from everybody because he gives the best,” Morris said. “You’ll never see AB not diving or not chasing down the ball to the boundary.
“That rubs off on a lot of guys. I think it’s going to be a little bit of a change (from Hashim Amla’s captaincy style). The biggest thing for me is going to be to see how more aggressive we might be.”
Not that De Villiers was his hero. That honour belongs to his father, a slow left-armer who took 208 wickets in 74 first-class matches, prized his wicket, caught everything that came his way in the slips or the gully, and stands 2.08 metres tall.
At 1.93 metres, his son is in that league. He is also a fine slip fielder, which he proved by making two quality grabs at Newlands.
“Watching him as a youngster, I went, ‘Jeezlike, if Willie’s there, I’ve got to be there,” Chris Morris said. “He was a goalkeeper. I thought, ‘Jeez, I’ve got to be a goalkeeper’. I do think I was better than Peter Schmeichel, but that’s just me.”
So his parents were uppermost when he heard he was in the squad as cover for Dale Steyn, who had strained a shoulder.
“First things first, sunglasses on to hide the tears; I’m a softie like that,” Morris said. Then he phoned home: “I said, ‘Listen, you guys are on stand-by’.”
Morris first told his mother, Vyrna-lee, he would play test cricket when he was three years old. The dream grew along with his career, and led to a promise.
“If I ever played a test match for SA, I would fly them there – ‘Doesn’t matter where I am. Even if I have to sell my kidney, you’ll be there’.”
The Morris majors duly arrived in Cape Town at 10pm the night before the match.
“They were there for my debut, which was really special for me,” Morris said.
Something else Morris said about breaking the news to Willie and Vyrna-lee stuck out.
There was, he said, “snot en trane” on both ends of the line.
Maybe there is a bit of Afrikaans in the kid, after all.