South Africa in New Zealand 2016-17 March 21, 2017

Where to now for Morris and Olivier?

South Africa are set to play 14 Tests in nine months soon, so both fast bowlers, despite being sent home from New Zealand, should not lose hope
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Chris Morris has struggled to nail down a Test spot but has assured South Africa he would not go the Kolpak route © Getty Images

South Africa went into this New Zealand Test series with six seamers in their squad. Less than halfway through, they released one, when Chris Morris was sent home on the second day of the Wellington Test. Two-thirds of the way in and they've let another go - Duanne Olivier returned to South Africa instead of traveling on to Hamilton.

And now there are four.

Morne Morkel, Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell remain, but that does not mean South Africa have established an exact order of preference for their quicks. It means the infant Test careers of Morris and Olivier, who have three Test caps between them, are not in danger if the pair are willing to be patient despite being dispensed with.

Olivier may consider himself the unluckier of the two. Aside from an impressive debut at the Wanderers against Sri Lanka in January, he topped the first-class wicket-takers list with 52 scalps. For that reason, Olivier was thought to be in direct competition with Morkel for the third seamer's spot at Basin Reserve but it went to Morkel despite a year-long, injury-enforced absence from the game.

At the time, it was a gamble but South Africa took it after closely monitoring Morkel's recovery and because captain Faf du Plessis is a firm believer in Test cricket being the arena for the experienced. He can't be blamed for feeling that way. Du Plessis was witness to South Africa's sobering summer in 2015-16, when they were without Philander and Dale Steyn, lost five of eight Tests - three in India and two at home against England - and fell from No.1. Morris was among the players they tried without much success that summer.

Rabada provided some joy and has since then established himself in the South African side to such an extent that it is difficult to imagine a Test XI without him, which also means there is one less place for the likes of Morris and Olivier.

However, workload is a constant concern for Rabada, especially as he is only 21. There was some discussion about resting him, with talk centering on the New Year's Test against Sri Lanka after he appeared down on pace in the opener on Boxing Day or the upcoming Hamilton match where a spin-friendly surface may negate the need for three quicks. But even if South Africa are considering that, they have not showed their hand early by sending Rabada home and with New Zealand scrambling for morale, they shouldn't. The longer the hosts think they will have to front up to Rabada, the better for South Africa.

Duanne Olivier was impressive on debut against Sri Lanka earlier this year © Gallo Images

Realistically though - and looking beyond this series - Rabada may not be able to play all the time. South Africa will want to save him for the important stuff and therein lies opportunity for someone else.

Philander and Morkel are at their peak but they are also in their 30s and may only have a few years left. While they are fit, they are first-choice but that doesn't mean the door is closed to anyone else. Not even to Parnell, who has not played Tests since January. He was seen bowling on the practice pitch before the Wellington Test and the signs pointed to his inclusion ahead of JP Duminy - which may yet happen in Hamilton. Parnell, being a left-armer, offers a change of angle, which South Africa may feel they need at the moment, but that does not necessarily put him ahead of Morris or Olivier. Not yet, anyway. He still needs to prove his consistency has improved before he can be trusted as long-form player.

So, all things considered, there is a strong chance South Africa may end up using only half of the seamers they brought on this trip. But that doesn't mean it is an elite club that will never accept new members. It can't be that. They play 14 Tests in nine months from July - four in England and ten at home against Bangladesh (2), India (4) and Australia (4) and the last eight could be squeezed into 12 weeks early next year. They will need more than three quicks to carry that load.

Steyn is targeting a mid-year comeback with the England series firmly in his sights but he will need to prove his fitness, as Morkel did, over a sustained period of time. Although Morkel came into the New Zealand Tests with just two List A games under his belt this year, he played practice matches on South Africa's tour of Australia in October and November, and spent many hours in the Newlands nets, bowling to national players. That's how du Plessis knew Morkel was ready.

Whether Steyn will do the same in England remains to be seen. He may seek out a brief county stint in a bid to be match-ready. He may not manage that as soon as he would like. Whatever the case, South Africa will need other options.

Morris and Olivier should know that well enough and it seems they do. Though eligible by virtue of their scant Test caps, both players have provided separate assurances that they will not consider the Kolpak route. They need to remember, now that their Test careers seem to have stalled, particularly Olivier, who is not part of the limited-overs' plans like Morris, that the queue they are in could move very quickly.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bundybear55 on March 24, 2017, 1:23 GMT

    @Shongololo: Well said..! All common sense really

  • ProteaCricketLover on March 23, 2017, 9:25 GMT

    It would be a tragedy if any of Olivier or Morris start thinking about a future away from South African cricket, although they are being presented with reasons to do so. Both deserve their places ahead of the likes of Parnell. But owing to the quotas, they have to wait for a white cricketer among Elgar, Cook, Faf, Qdk or Morkel to either get injured or dropped and only one of those is a bowler. Rabada has been playing non stop and risks a burn out. Even in that case, it would be Parnell who will get the nod. That is the fallacy of the system. I cant imagine what the case would be when Steyn and AB become available!

  •   espn96588312 on March 22, 2017, 19:28 GMT

    Give them hope by picking players based on merit and not because they are part of the senior club. Olivier deserves a spot over Morkel ditto Markrham and De Bruyn deserve spots over Cook and Duminy. Well less so Cook because he scores grinding 100s. Duminy has had the most charmed international career in history. How do you reward the worst number 6/7 batsman in the world for his failures? Promote him to number 4.

  • Pankuuuu on March 22, 2017, 15:48 GMT

    What a logic by SA selection committee. If a player (morris) has assured that he will not go to Kolpak deal, let's keep him aside as he is a safe pick and let's pick from pathetic players who might go to Kolpak.

  • Bazza_SAF on March 22, 2017, 14:55 GMT

    @jwara.... You must have your "JP Duminy designed" selective glasses for reading here as most fans suggest its time for Cook to also go.... Hes clearly struggling now but like JP has scored a recent hundred. Stange how JP supprters justify using that reason for JP but not for Cook! Problem is who is going to replace him? JP has a formidable player waiting patiently in Theunis De bruyn to replace him. Theres no opener spoken about currently knocking the door down other than Markram who is also a bit of an off spinner as well but very young and inexperienced. Like others have said, JP is no number 4 batsmen compared to other teams No 4s. Root, Taylor, Smith, Kohli.... And why should De Bruyn be forced to change to opener when clearly he isnt one? Same mistake made for Stiaan v Zyl! Why cannot JP move to opener if hes so brilliant and De Bruyn play at 5. Faf can move to 4 which hes suited for based on his style of play.

  • cricfan35610054 on March 22, 2017, 11:22 GMT

    For those trying to defend Duminy and claiming his stats are not bad, you need to remember that Duminy is batting at number 4 right now. While his average of 34.21 may be acceptable for a number 6/7 it doesn't really compare to most of the other number 4s in world cricket. Steve Smith - 60.98, Younus Khan - 53.06, Joe Root - 52.8, Virat Kohli - 49.41, Ross Taylor - 47.1. Duminy has never been good enough to bat in the top 6 for SA yet somehow he's always there.

  • SouthAfricaChampion on March 22, 2017, 10:59 GMT

    It's unbelievable that people are saying Hansie was mediocre. He averaged nearly 40 in Tests and ODIs and 30s with ball and JP will never achieve those numbers. He should just enjoy his run in the team until AB comes back.

  • cricfan2362159015 on March 22, 2017, 10:52 GMT

    gladiator19whatever - "If you don't like it move" - Spoken like a true NEW South African. Maybe you should consider what an embarrassment you are to South African's on a global website like this. Stick to Luthuli House and leave the sport to people who appreciate it for what it is.

  • Jwara on March 22, 2017, 10:31 GMT

    Why is there a clamour to replace Duminy while there has been a deathly silence about the continuing failures of Cook? Lest I have missed something, the man just scored a 150 two tests ago, had a good series against the SL's with the bat and took 4 wickets in the previous test. For all his faults JP overstayed his welcome in the SA side, but this past season he has proved himself over in Australia and domestically against the SL's.

    I see lots of people who come up with alternative teams below which are mostly based on potential. I thought South Africans would have learned by now after a chastening 2016 that experience is a valued commodity in test cricket. Themba has had some lean times but how quickly we forget that in winning performances in Aus and NZ he was one of the performers. Time for him to be dropped came and went. Not now china's, he is a performer now. Cook should be dispensed with and replaced by De Bruyn on Saturday morning finish and klaar.

  • Shongololo on March 22, 2017, 7:49 GMT

    gladiator1976 - I too support transformation and agree it is important to nation building. But you don't build a non-racial nation with racially inspired quotas that reserve places in the side based in skin colour. You take the game to everyone who wishes to play it, you provide the facilities and the coaches, the financial support and a pathway to the elite level. The cream then rises to the top and you end up with a powerhouse side. That's transformation. The fact that there's a minimum number of so-called players of colour that must be in the side but not a minimum number of so- called white players required in the side is iniquitous. That's not transformation, my friend, and no amount of gilding the lily will change the facts.

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