England v South Africa, 2nd Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 12, 2017

Morkel takes no pride in over-stepping the mark

Morne Morkel holds an unwelcome world record - 13 wickets from no-balls. But his need to stay the right side of the line isn't South Africa's biggest issue
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'Someone's got to have the record' - Morkel on no-ball wickets

Holding a world record is usually an achievement, but not for Morne Morkel. With 13 Test wickets off no-balls, Morkel is the best in the world at getting people out when overstepping, and it's a problem that has cost South Africa dearly.

In the past, Morkel has dismissed the likes of Andrew Strauss and Michael Clarke off no-balls, only to see them win matches and punish the bowlers. At Lord's, he bowled Ben Stokes on 44 and though Stokes only added 12 more runs to his score, his eventual dismissal came at the hands of Kagiso Rabada, whose send-off contained an expletive that earned him a suspension. Needless to say, Morkel is hardly merry about the whole thing.

"World record, thank you. Somebody needs to hold it. It's 13 wickets I'd like to have in the bank but it's not to be," he said at Trent Bridge. "It's not acceptable. It's a controllable thing."

Height and long limbs were thought to be the obvious causes of Morkel's overstepping but the man himself explained the habit has more to do with form than physique. "I need a lot of rhythm and timing is crucial for me," he said. "The more I've bowled in a Test match, the better my timing and my feel at the crease was."

Like many bowlers, Morkel believes having overs in the legs helps rather than hinders, and he should have had plenty. Since arriving in England almost two months ago, Morkel has played in ten competitive fixtures, including one of the three ODIs in the England series, two of the three Champions Trophy games and two T20s, so it could not have been a case of coming in cold which caused his most recent mishap.

Instead, it was more likely the result of over-exertion that caused Morkel to overstep when he gave Stokes his reprieve. "It's a rush of blood to the head, wanting to create something with the older, softer ball. Maybe I ran in too quickly and just over-strode," he said.

Morkel's no-ball came in the 47th over with England 157 for 4, which does not sound like too desperate a situation. But, they had already dropped Joe Root twice and the fifth-wicket partnership had grown. The noose they had tied around England early was loosening and they could feel an advantage slipping away. It only slipped a little further in that moment.

Though Morkel thinks there is "nothing" he can change to make sure he doesn't add a 14th non-victim to his list, he is working on his back-foot placement. "I can't make my run up longer, I can't make it shorter. I'm just going to stick with it," he said. "The only thing I can do is keep on working on that; work on getting the foot behind the line."

Getting that right will be even more important in the next match because of Rabada's absence. Such is his value that South Africa are pondering replacing him with two seamers and leaving out a batsman, instead of just a straight swap but that will depend on how seamer-friendly they deem the surface to be.

Morkel is not preparing any differently based on those considerations and still sees himself as having to carry the load of an experienced player. "My role as a senior player is still going to be to lead from the front. We're going to miss KG - he has the ability to bowl long spells at pace. But once again it's an opportunity for another guy to step into his place," he said. "It's always nice to have that extra partner who can bowl seam, but if that's not the case then, as three seamers, we have to step up and get the job done."

The truth is that South Africa's attack has been getting the job done, more so than the batting line-up, where the real issues lie. It is the top five need to step up and, while Morkel is too much of a team man to say that, he is hopeful big runs are on the way.

"This is a team environment so we're not going to point fingers. It's not a case of the batters against the bowlers sort of thing. The batters are working as hard as they can to get on top of these conditions. Hopefully it's just a matter of time until they can go out and get the runs on the board," he said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • juhisi9632589 on July 14, 2017, 7:05 GMT

    Morkel's ODI numbers are fascinating. If not for injuries he could've been one of the greats.

  • mukul.2048773 on July 14, 2017, 4:22 GMT

    Morkel is SA's best short format bowler currently. (WC 2015, Champions Trophy, especially the spell against Pakistan) In Tests, he has played excellent supporting role (1st change) to Steyn and Philander and took charge whenever Steyn and Philander were not that effective. He also ties the run and create pressure from the other end which allows Steyn to rip through the batting order.

  • adityagoel07 on July 13, 2017, 12:01 GMT

    Morkel is a very good bowler, and in a little bit of favourable conditions, can do wonders. However, he has to sweat it out more during practice, so that he and SA don't bleed during the actual war. Also, cricket is a team game, so the blame of the loss has to be on everyone in the team. Even England were bowled out of 233 in their 2nd innings, which is a very good bowling performance, but looking at it after SA gave away a 97 run lead in the 1st innings, then it looks bad. The batting and catching has to improve. Imagine if Root had been gobbled up on 5, or even on 16, then SA might just have won this match. But again, we are speaking with the benefit of hindsight, and as everyone knows, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but just that, nothing more.

  • A on July 13, 2017, 10:50 GMT

    Not sure what the hostility to MM is all about. Since his reintroduction into the test team he has been better than ever and is key to an excellent seam attack with Philander and Rabada - they were excellent in NZ and decent at Lords.

    Bowling is a team sport. Wasim was at his best with Waqar; Ambrose with Walsh; McGraw with Lee, Gillespie etc, etc &Y etc. Individual records mean nought - Steyn gave away hundreds of runs looking for wickets rather than protecting his average.

    It's just time for the batters to step up - woeful in NZ and woeful in the UK.

  • Edwin on July 13, 2017, 9:19 GMT

    When will people realize that there is no such thing as a 'no-ball wicket' when overstepping!

    If the bowler had not overstepped, even by an inch, the ball would have been delivered marginally slower, would not have hit the same piece of the pitch, and the batsman may or may not have played a different stroke, which may or may not have resulted in a wicket ...<sigh>...

  • pratik4224371 on July 13, 2017, 8:48 GMT

    @cricuset why u r comparing morkel with ishant sharma coming back from injury he bowl very well see his odi stats and also test stat is fine

  • Khaya on July 13, 2017, 7:23 GMT

    "I can't make my run up longer, I can't make it shorter"....just 2 feet longer, your problem will be solved.

  • N on July 13, 2017, 7:13 GMT

    There is absolutely no explanation/ excuse for bowling no balls. Cricket is quite a slow game, and "rush of blood" cannot be a reason. If you can't stay behind the drawn line, then "imagine" the crease to be 1/2 feet before. If this is not possible, then just "draw" a line 1/2 feet before the crease at the start of every over. Whatever the method, DON'T CROSS THE LINE.

  • Phani on July 13, 2017, 6:51 GMT

    A long, tall, quick fast bowler but he is hardly feared in World Cricket. I am sorry Morkel, but I have to compare you with Ishant Sharma of India. I am not talking about statistics but the contribution, what you did to SA is same as Ishanth Sharma did for India. You guys keep playing for your team without much decisive performances. Just look at Staurt Broad, who is another tall fast bowler like you, he me go wicket less in a few innings, but all of a sudden he becomes deadly unplayable and literally rip the top order, middle order or any order. I think SA should find another Steyn and Morkel combination as soon as possible, for an chance of winning outside SA and Australian pitches.

  • Andre on July 13, 2017, 5:50 GMT

    You can't make your run-up longer? Are you kidding me? Go back half a foot and run in the same way. What's so difficult about that? I say drop him. Can Morris or Olivier do any worse?

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