Mastering Morkel always a tall order
Morne Morkel ... his big weapon is the steep bounce. Photo: Getty Images
MORNE MORKEL poses a very different challenge from his more celebrated pace partner Dale Steyn, but the Australian batsmen's record against one of the giants of the game suggests they have his measure.
Morkel's big weapon is the steep bounce he generates from a towering height - he has been variously recorded as being anywhere between 196cm and 201cm tall - but Ricky Ponting believes the bowler has become more of a handful since opting for a fuller length.
In seven Tests against Australia, the steepling fast bowler has taken 23 wickets at 38.21, compared with his career figures of 150 wickets at 30.36 in 42 Tests.
''We've played him well in the past,'' Ponting said. ''What is it that makes him such a good bowler? When you're that tall and you bang a ball into the wicket you tend to get more bounce than shorter fast bowlers do, and I think that's his great weapon. We've had a look at what he's done in the last few series and if anything he's managed to bowl a bit fuller than he did before, which has enabled him to have a bit more success.''
Morkel can be erratic but he's dangerous against left-handers; Andrew Strauss, Alistair Cook and Mike Hussey feature among his five most-dismissed batsmen.
England bowling coach David Saker believes height is a huge asset in a fast bowler. ''On some of the flat wickets you get in Test cricket … it's vital you have the ability to flog some life out of a good length and keep the batsman honest about whether to come forward or stay back. In that respect, we've been lucky to have giants like Chris Broad, Chris Tremlett and Steven Finn,'' Saker wrote in the 2012 Wisden Cricketers' Almanack.
And while Morkel hasn't had as much success against Australia as against England (45 wickets at 28) and India (30 at 32), he perfectly complements Steyn and the miserly swing bowler Vernon Philander.
That's why South Africa's bowling coach, Alan Donald, believes they make up the best attack in the nation's history.
''They're a well-rounded attack,'' Ponting said. ''All their bowlers are slightly different and there's no room to relax whatsoever.''