Morne Morkel has become the fifth South African bowler to 300 Test wickets, after taking three wickets on the second day of the Newlands Test against Australia. Morkel’s milestone came up in his 85th Test; at tea, his tally stood at 300 at an average of 28.07, in his final series as an international cricketer.
Morkel will retire at the end of the ongoing series, and there is no guarantee he will feature in the fourth Test which has only made reaching the landmark all the more important. He was dropped for the second Test at St George’s Park after a poor start in Durban, where he took three wickets but bowled better as the match went on, and is competing with Lungi Ngidi for a place in the starting XI.
Morkel may not even have played at Newlands, but Ngidi suffered a toe injury, which allowed the lanky quick the opportunity for a farewell in the city he has called home for the last three years. Morkel moved from Pretoria to Cape Town in 2015, and though he does not play for the Cobras domestic franchise, with no fixture at SuperSport Park, Newlands is the closest he will get to a home goodbye.
And he made sure it will be one to remember.
Bowling first change, Morkel replaced Vernon Philander shortly before lunch and took a wicket with his third ball. The Wynberg End offered extra bounce and Morkel found some immediately; Usman Khawaja had not made allowance for the lift and pulled straight to Kagiso Rabada at fine leg to send Australia into the break at 67 for 2.
Morkel continued after the interval and in his second over after lunch got the big fish. Australian captain Steven Smith was also undone by extra bounce and fended a catch to Dean Elgar at gully, to be dismissed for 5 and become Morkel’s 299th victim.
Then came a wait for Morkel. He bowled four more overs in that spell without adding to his wicket tally, before returning for a new spell and striking with his third ball. Shaun Marsh chased a wide ball and nicked off to Quinton de Kock, prompting animated celebrations from the usually reserved Morkel. He screamed in delight before acknowledging an appreciative crowd. Among those cheering him on was his wife, the Australian journalist Roz Kelly, and their two-year-old son Arias.