Morkel takes no pride in over-stepping the mark
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