After a disheartening start to the four-match Test series, where they lost the battle at Lords, South Africa bound back emphatically at Nottingham. South Africa put up a disciplined all-round performance and won the game by 340 runs to square the series. The return of their skipper Faf du Plessis turned out to be a fruitful one and have also gained solid momentum with this much-needed win. Prior to the start of second Test, South Africa suffered a huge blow when Kagiso Rabada was suspended for one game after Ben Stokes send-off. Rabada has been one of the strike bowlers for South Africa and has been prolific with the ball in hand.
South Africa needed a win at Trent Bridge and missing out on one of their strike bowlers was certainly not ideal. With an experience of just two Tests, Chris Morris was given an opportunity. South Africa dropped JP Duminy for the second Test and needed to strengthen their batting as well. Du Plessis was back into the side but Morris’ inclusion certainly added more strength to South Africa’s batting. With Vernon Philander boasting of a good record in England with the bat, it was obvious he would have batted higher than Morris at Trent Bridge.
At first, Morris chipped in with some crucial runs with the bat while batting at 8. South Africa got it right at the toss and opted to bat first. They were in a delicate situation at 235 for 6 when Temba Bavuma was dismissed. From this stage, a decent partnership would have put South Africa in a good position, if not commanding and a wicket or two would have steered England in the driver’s seat. Philander and Morris were out in the middle and had a task in hand. They stitched a crucial 74-run partnership between them. Morris accounted for 36 vital runs while Philander went on to score a fifty. South Africa had 335 runs on the board and the pressure was now on England.
Though Morris contributed with the bat, his primary job was with the ball. He needed wickets to his name and his peers did well in creating an ideal platform for that in the first innings. After leaking 20 runs in first three overs, Chris Morris was brought back into the attack in the 42nd over. England were precariously placed at 199 for 6, when Morris was steaming in to bowl his fourth over of the second spell. He got rid of Moeen Ali and on the very next ball handed Stuart Broad a golden duck. Moments later, Mark Wood was also undone by Morris as England were bundled out for 205 in the first innings. One should also remember, England bat deep and their tail is well-known to garner crucial runs but Morris did well in cleaning them up.
South Africa were now in command with a 130-run lead going into the second innings. They went on to pile 343 more runs to their existing lead and simultaneously set a target of 474 for England to chase. Morris chipped in with just 13 runs in the second innings but his failure didn’t affect South Africa a lot as they had runs on the board.
The highest moment of glory for Morris in this Test came in the second innings, where he got prized wickets of Joe Root and Alastair Cook. After an impressive first over, Morris returned with a bang and cleaned up Joe Root’s off stump with a peach of a delivery. England were struggling at 55 for the loss of two wickets with Root and Cook, who are widely reckoned for playing big innings, at the crease. He is the kind of a batsman, whose wicket needs to be earned. Morris stunned Root with a lethal outswinging yorker on the very first ball of the over and hit his off stump. Not many expected Morris to produce a delivery, which is highly rewarding in shorter formats, to get rid of Root.
Morris bowled four tight overs and reaped another fruitful result for his hard work with Alastair Cook’s wicket in his fifth over. Morris got the better of Cook with a bouncer and steered his side to a dominating position as South Africa were just six wickets away from levelling the series. South Africa dismantled England for 133 and won the game by a huge margin. South Africa had a challenge in the absence of Rabada and their bowlers did well in overcoming it.
Morris’ success at Trent Bridge will provide South Africa a solid option for the next game. With Rabada back into the side for the next game, South Africa’s pace battery will wear a dominant look with four pacers; provided they persist with Morris, which is very likely. Morris has done reasonably well with the bat and has started finding consistency with the ball as well at Trent Bridge. If he continues to fare in this manner, South Africa will certainly benefit a lot from him. He has the potential the develop into an impactful all-rounder in the longest format of the game. His talent is well-known in shorter formats and the remaining games of the series are his big test.
Morris has only played three Tests so far, and has a long way to go. The upcoming two matches will provide an ideal platform for Morris to make his presence unavoidable and help his side win the Test series. South Africa have been on a roll in whites, winning four back-to-back Test series and England certainly pose a massive threat in putting brakes on Proteas’ winning streak. At present, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Rabada form the formidable South African pace attack and Morris’ consistency will give them an edge.