Proteas speedster Morne Morkel, who has announced retirement from international cricket after the four-match Test series against Australia, was surprisingly snubbed from the team’s playing XI for the second Test in Port Elizabeth.
Morkel looked out of sorts in the first Test at Durban that the hosts lost by 118 runs. The lanky pacer had managed to claim only 3 wickets in the match by conceding 112 runs. Considering the significance of the second Test, South African think tank preferred young paceman Lungi Ngidi ahead of Morkel in the starting XI.
The 22-year-old Ngidi, who made his Test debut against India in January this year, also proved his selection right with the bowling figures of 3 for 15, including the prize scalp of David Warner. Taking into account the looming injury comeback of legendary quick Dale Steyn and Ngidi’s stellar form, Morkel might have played the last Test of his career.
However, former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith reckons that a lot can happen between now and the end of the series against Australia.
“Two Test matches left until he retires so there’s a lot that can happen. He’s got to stay motivated. He’s had a great career, if that’s the case,” Smith told cricket.com.au.
“South Africa felt Ngidi was the better option here and (Proteas captain) du Plessis has backed the young man and so far he’s delivered.
“It would obviously be a tough place for Morne, a long career and a successful one at that. He’s a wonderful team man and I expect him to stay that way through his last two Tests,” he added.
Apart from Warner, Ngidi got rid of Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon to wrap up Australia’s innings for 243 after the visitors won the toss and opted to bat. Even though Ngidi looked untroubled on the first day in Port Elizabeth, Smith still has a doubt whether the youngster could play the role of South Africa’s third seamer.
“(Ngidi) looked a little bit out of sorts coming up from the Park Drive End, running up the hill, but when he turned around and came from the Duckpond End running down his rhythm looked great, he bowled quick,” Smith said.
“I wasn’t sure if he could swing the ball back into the left-hander and he proved me wrong. He bowled a beauty to David Warner; wide of the crease, angled, nipped back, middle stump.
“Warner was looking terrific at the time, playing so well, fought hard up front and just found his timing and his rhythm. That was one of the main wickets for South Africa,” he concluded.