There is a lot wrong with the IPL, although, perhaps nothing Jagmohan Dalmiya and the courts of India couldn’t sort out. But it also has many good qualities. Paying domestic cricketers a proper wage is one thing. Giving unknown cricketers a place to shine is another.
Chris Morris averages 34 with the bat and 23 with the ball in first class cricket. His striking is clean. His bowling has pace. He’s 26 years old. And yet this was his ODI debut for his country.
It was Chennai who came calling first, after he’d embarrassed some batsmen in the IPL’s ugly stepchild, the Champions League, the season before. This year he played 16 games in a team good enough to make the final. He stood out. He was exciting. He was new. But he still wasn’t good enough to be chosen in South Africa’s Champions Trophy squad.
If almost every single star South Africa had wasn’t injured, he’d be at home in Highveld right now.
Instead with Morne Morkel out for the tournament, and Dale Steyn out of the game, Morris was here, and played. On the team sheet his number was written wrong. It seemed like it was an accident that he was even playing.
Once out there, Morris started his day by comically running himself out, and started his bowling by bowling a wide. But that was about as bad as his day was ever going to get.
Once he got going, his height, pace, and angled delivery style would have meant every Pakistan player who was happy Morkel was out, was already sad Morris was in.
Imran Farhat, the world’s most surprisingly regular international cricketer, was beaten by pace, but paralysed by fear. If you’d have given him the offer of walking into a fire, or facing Morris, he may have thought long and hard about it. Farhat had a gap between bat and pad, and then there was a substantial gap between the off stump and the two left in the ground.
Mohammad Hafeez didn’t ever look that happy. Morris can bowl that uncomfortable length, that when backed up with pace, just makes batsmen want to be at the non-striker’s end. Hafeez played a hook shot. But it was the hook shot of a man just hoping the ball wouldn’t end up anywhere near him. It floated gently to square leg.
When he was taken off after only four overs, it seemed like AB deVilliers was being kind to Pakistan.
But he brought on Ryan McLaren. McLaren is a child of county cricket. He joined Kent as a Kolpak when it looked like his international career would never start, which meant in theory he wasn’t available for South Africa. In first-class cricket he’s averaging 30 with the bat, and 25 with the ball. At 30, he is still not a regular player, with only 24 games since his debut in 2009.
Being a county cricket guy makes him instantly less exciting and marketable than Morris. His spell was much the same. His first spell contained no wickets in his four overs. It did however cost only seven runs. McLaren wasn’t as quick, or as scary, but he was very disciplined and clever. He didn’t do anything special, he just refused to bowl bad balls.
Those eight overs were all bowled back-to-back from the Pavilion End. But those eight overs set up this win. They were all bowled by players who weren’t Vernon Philander, Morkel or Steyn. These two are just the back-ups, but they certainly looked like more than that today.
Morris’ wickets put Pakistan behind, McLlaren’s overs kept them there. By the end of the 16th over, Pakistan were 40 for 2 and the target of 235 looked absolutely massive. From there, Pakistan never looked like winning. And the thought that both men still had overs to go, just made any notion of a comeback even more unlikely.
When McLaren did come back on later, the run rate had become nominal, and even though Misbah played some big shots, McLaren cleaned up and ended with four wickets just to make sure Pakistan were finished with.
Between them, their figures were 15-3-34-6. For back-ups, who’ve had to get noticed in domestic leagues away from home, that’s pretty good.