TELFORD VICE, Cape Town
SOME allrounders burst onto the scene apparently fully formed; rarities like Ian Botham and Imran Khan. But, usually, they take their time to become batsmen more or less as good as they are bowlers, or vice versa.
Chris Morris is among the latter, and he sees SA’s triangular series in the Caribbean as his chance to seal the deal he put on the table last season when he sprang to prominence with the bat at the highest level.
“It’s quite a big responsibility to be the allrounder in the team,” Morris told reporters in Guyana. “It’s an opportunity I’m trying to grasp with two hands. I’m trying to grab it and go because that’s what I want to do.”
We’ve known for a long time that Morris can bowl. But when he walked out at Newlands in January to take guard for the first time in a test not many would have thought he was good enough to clip a classy 69 off an England attack featuring James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes.
Morris batted for just short of three hours, shared a stand of 167 with Temba Bavuma, and erased from many memories the fact that he had laboured for 28 overs for his meagre return of 1/150 in England’s first innings.
A month after his test debut, Morris walked out to bat at the Wanderers with SA reduced to 191/6 in the 38th over in search of the 263 they needed to win the fourth one-day international against England and level the series with a match to play.
So, with their best batting back in the shed, SA had to score 72 off 76. They got there with a wicket standing and 16 balls to spare.
The difference between winning and losing the series that night was Morris, whose fiery 62 flew off 38 balls.
Two days later, SA, no doubt still sparking from that win, clinched the rubber with a five-wicket victory at Newlands.
Morris’ highest score in his five other ODI innings is 12, so it would be foolish to write him up as the next Botham just yet.
But does he have what it takes to tread the allrounder’s tightrope? If they struggle in one discipline they have the chance to make amends in the other. The price of that advantage is being expected to perform with bat as well as ball.
Morris has already walked that walk. So he is entitled to talk the talk: “I’ve put in a lot of hard work, especially in my batting, to have the opportunity. So I’m very grateful for it. It’s a big responsibility but I look at it as an exciting part of my career.
“I’m at an age where I think I can, maybe, cement my spot and this is an opportunity to do that – to give it horns.”
Farhaan Behardien and Wayne Parnell are the other seam bowling allrounders in the squad SA have taken to the West Indies.
Parnell, especially, looms as a rival to Morris – but he has the jump on Parnell because he has taken the chances that have come his way better than the immensely talented left-hander. That’s what matters: not how much talent you have but how well you use it.
When West Indies and SA clash in the first match of the triseries in Guyana at 7pm (SA time) on Friday, that truth will thump more loudly in two heads than most.