Chris Morris had played all of one international – a T20I against New Zealand in Durban – when he earned his maiden IPL deal in 2013, with the Chennai Super Kings shelling out US$ 625,000 for him. Eight years later, Morris’ South Africa future is uncertain, but he continues to be a sought-after player in the IPL.
In the most recent auction, he became the most expensive player ever in the IPL, with the Rajasthan Royals outbidding the Royal Challengers Bangalore to sign him for INR 16.25 crore (USD 2.2 million approx.).
Morris recalled the fierce bidding war for him at the auction earlier in February, saying his “breath was taken away”.
“Look, I’ll be the first person to say that my breath was taken away,” Morris said during a virtual-media interaction on Tuesday. “I didn’t expect to first of all be bought for that much and second of all for so many teams to want to employ my services. It’s definitely a humbling feeling…and like I said it took my breath away for that to happen and for teams to keep going for me like that blew my mind.”
Between the end of IPL 2020, when Morris was injured, and the IPL 2021 auction, Morris hadn’t played a single competitive game, but the Royals still broke the bank for his big hitting and death bowling. Those dual skills have made him a T20 globetrotter – he has had stints in the BBL, IPL, and T20 Blast in England. This will be Morris’ eighth IPL season and he will return to the Royals, a franchise he represented in 2015, when they made the playoffs. Morris, now 33, said that initially he didn’t see himself playing as many seasons in the league.
“I never in my wildest dreams thought I’ll be in my ninth IPL or eighth – math has never been my strong suit – but I never thought I’ll be playing this many IPLs,” he said. “For me to still be needed for my services and be valued is very cool and humbled. We need to put the performances in; it’s as simple as that. When you do contribute to the team and have a bit of fun…amazing things happen when you have fun on the cricket field.”
Morris also looked back at the IPL as a “life-changing” event, cherishing the experience of playing with and against top international players in the world.
“You want to use the word life-changing, but every single time you come to the IPL, your life changes whether it’s personal or cricket or anything else,” he said. “It’s a life-changing experience to be part of the IPL. It’s been an absolute blast of a journey so far and hopefully there’s a new story to be written over the next nine weeks.”
Morris, though, refused to view the IPL as a dry run for the 2021 T20 World Cup, which will also be held in India, insisting that his focus is entirely on performing for the Royals.
“Whether there’s a World Cup or not, it’s going to be a very important [IPL] season all the way,” he said. “Like I said, World Cup or no World Cup, [I] still want to win the IPL doesn’t matter what’s coming up after. Your main focus is to win the IPL – the second-biggest trophy, if not the biggest trophy to win in a year without the World Cup. It’s the biggest trophy to win as a cricketer playing domestic cricket. The whole world is watching you, the eyes are on you. It’s the one. It’s the big one to win as a player especially when you’re playing in it for a quite a number of years. You don’t want to use the word tick the box, but definitely something you want to do to have an opportunity to win the IPL.
“Fortunately enough, in the past I have come in [to the tournament] with quite a big price tag on my head, so at the end of the day, you got to perform on the field, no matter what your price tag is.”
“Other guys will hopefully be focusing on the World Cup and that takes their focus away from the IPL and we can jump onto that. Personally, I’m not worried about the World Cup, I’m here to do the job to win matches and hopefully push for winning the trophy in the IPL.”
Earlier this year, when asked about his South Africa future, Morris didn’t provide a firm answer. This time as well, he maintained his stance on the matter, having last played international cricket in the 2019 50-over World Cup.
“I haven’t even looked that far,” Morris said. “I’ve just focused on playing for Rajasthan Royals – that’s my immediate focus and port of call right now. We will cross that bridge if we get there – if it ever arrives – but no focus on that and all my focus is here.”
Playing for the Royals will invite price-tag pressure – and there will be greater pressure if the injured Jofra Archer is sidelined from the entire tournament – but Morris wasn’t too fussed about it, having dealt with it in the past.
“It’s natural to have a little bit of added pressure when something like that has happened [at the auction],” he said. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t any pressure. But, fortunately enough, in the past I have come in [to the tournament] with quite a big price tag on my head, so at the end of the day, you got to perform on the field, no matter what your price tag is. So, there is a little bit of added pressure, but the pressure that you get from a price tag doesn’t affect you on a cricket field at the end of the day.”
Morris disagrees with Steyn about too much money talk in IPL
During his PSL stint with the Quetta Gladiators, Dale Steyn, speaking to Cricket Pakistan, reckoned that the IPL was less rewarding than some of the other T20 leagues, with more “emphasis on the amount of money”. Morris, however, disagreed with his former team-mate at South Africa and the Royal Challengers.
“No, I don’t feel the same (laughs). Dale’s a free spirit, Dale’s one of the legends of the game, Dale’s one of my favourite people in the world,” Morris said. “Dale’s got his opinions, he will be outspoken about his opinions, but that’s Dale’s character.
“I’m not going to delve into it too much and it was just the case of Dale feeling at that time what Dale was feeling – what he was feeling emotionally or physically or mentally. Whatever he feels that’s what he feels, and I’m happy to have a conversation with him about it. But, we’re all different animals, we’re all different people and we have different opinions and that’s what makes the world go around.”
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021
Confusion over elbow injury leaves Sussex captain Ben Brown shorn of options
Kent 145 and 220 for 3 (Crawley 85, Leaning 61*) lead Sussex 256 (Quinn 5-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) by 109 runs
We had to wait for our cricket on this third evening at Hove but one suspects we will remember it. Heavy showers delayed the start of play until five o’clock, by which time only 24 overs could be bowled. What we then saw and what we did not witness will interest the supporters of both teams and concern the England hierarchy as it prepares for a very hard year of international cricket.
Chief among the delights was the batting of Zak Crawley and Jack Leaning, whose 130-run fourth-wicket partnership should help Kent avoid defeat in this match, especially if tomorrow’s weather is as poor as has been forecast. Taking the gong for best supporting actor was the Sussex off-spinner, Jack Carson, who took Crawley’s wicket and whose engaging enthusiasm for his work was plain.
But, rather like the non-activity of the dog in the night-time, the studied quiescence of Jofra Archer standing at mid-on or deep midwicket with his hands in his pockets also commanded our attention. Archer did nothing except field a few balls today. On an evening when his team-mates were pulling their tripes out to take the wickets that might secure a much-needed win for Sussex, he effectively did nothing, although it was later disclosed by the Sussex coach Ian Salisbury that Archer’s sore elbow had prevented him adding to the five overs he had bowled on Friday evening.
Initially it was astonishing that Archer did not add to the brief spell he had bowled on Friday evening, especially as this is a game in which he is supposed to proving his match fitness in advance of an absurdly busy year. More disturbingly for Sussex supporters, it appeared that Archer’s county captain, Ben Brown, wanted his spearhead to deliver the second of the day’s 24 overs and had the briefest of discussions with him after Ollie Robinson had opened the bowling from the Cromwell Road End.
At the end of the chat Brown seemed to gesticulate towards Archer and called up George Garton from the slips. Sussex coach Ian Salisbury later disclosed that Archer’s long-standing elbow injury had prevented him bowling.
“I think there was some confusion over the state of his elbow,” said Salisbury. “Ben thought he was going to bowl but his elbow’s sore and so he couldn’t bowl. Regarding any other information about his elbow, it’s the ECB’s job to answer that. If he’s sore today, he’s not going to bowl tomorrow.”
Nevertheless, two further questions remain: if Archer had a sore elbow, why did the ECB allow him to field and risk further injury? And secondly, given that Archer has bowled a mere 18 overs in this game, how can he be risked in a five-day Test until he has proved his fitness, probably by taking a full part in a four-day county match?
When asked why Archer was on the field if he was not fit, Salisbury replied that both Archer and Brown “were desperate to win games for Sussex. Ben’s disappointment stems from the fact that one of his premier bowlers wasn’t available and we’re desperate to win this game against our local rivals”.
And it would certainly be a shame if discussions regarding Archer detracted completely from what was a short and well-contested session. For nearly an hour it looked as though Crawley would make the century he had failed to collect against Yorkshire just over a week ago. But, rather as he did at Headingley, the England batsman gave it away when an attempted reverse-sweep only inside-edged a catch to the diving Aaron Thomason at short leg.
Crawley had made 85 and had wasted his second successive opportunity to make the sort of contribution for which he admits he is searching. Such an opportunity was not passed up by Leaning, who collected his second half-century of the match and batted with great assurance, albeit he had to survive a supremely confident appeal for a catch behind the wicket off Robinson, who also had his namesake dropped on 8 by Thomason at first slip.
Our day ended in glorious sunshine and we can only hope for the best tomorrow. Carson, Garton and Delray Rawlins all bowled a single spell this evening. Having bowled the first over of the session, Robinson also bowled the last. His figures encompassing two spells today read 9-1-31-0. They did not do him an atom of justice. He, at least, should be playing Test cricket before long.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Recent Match Report – Essex vs Derbyshire Group 1 2021
Derbyshire 146 (Guest 49, Harmer 9-80) and 97 for 1 (Guest 56*) trail Essex 412 for 3 dec by 169 runs
A career-best Simon Harmer haul dragged Derbyshire into trouble at a rain-swept Chelmsford, as the visitors threatened to disappear down the gurgler in less than two days’ play. Essex have made all the running in their bid to beat both their opponents and the elements here, and only an improved showing second time around – underpinned by a maiden first-class fifty for the impressive Brooke Guest – kept Derbyshire above water going into the final day.
With the rain sluicing down on Thursday afternoon, Tom Westley, Essex’s captain, had looked out of the window and admitted winning would be a challenge. Scoring enough runs quickly while batting first, then taking 20 wickets in short order, that was the conundrum. “But I think the scripts that Essex generate for themselves over the last few years, you never know what’s going to happen,” he added.
Essex’s scriptwriters have truly been red hot in recent seasons, and no player has had his name in lights more often than Harmer. Nine Derbyshire batsmen were dazzled by his star wattage, as the plot for this match took a familiar turn; only Dan Lawrence’s dismissal of Billy Godleman on the second evening prevented a shot at all ten. “We try our best to create a bit of theatre around the bat,” Harmer said afterwards.
After being railroaded by Lawrence and Westley with the bat, Derbyshire were then mown down by the county game’s premier spinner coming the other way. So hapless was Derbyshire’s capitulation, the sight of an ACME anvil landing on one of the openers on the way out from the dressing room after they were invited to follow on would not have caused much of a stir.
As it was, after Luis Reece dragged a drive on to his stumps in the third over – an act of self-destruction worthy of the Warner Bros studio – Guest and Godleman batted competently enough to see Derbyshire through to the close one down, maintaining their chances of escaping with a draw should the weather cut into proceedings once again on the final day.
“We haven’t won too many games this season, so the biggest thing for us is to get this game over the line,” Harmer said. “It’s pointless taking nine wickets if it ends in a draw. Hopefully we can put it together tomorrow.
“As long as the weather plays its part – there’s some rain around and we can’t control that. As it showed tonight, when there was a bit of moisture on the surface it didn’t grip as much, so we’re going to have our work cut out for us. I think we’re going to have periods of play when we just need to make sure we get the ball in the right area. Nine wickets, nine balls, it can happen pretty quickly at Chelmsford.”
Derbyshire’s best hope of surviving appeared to be by staying off the pitch, but after morning rain brought about an early lunch, play got underway at 1.10pm. Having been required to bowl spin under the floodlights on the second evening, Essex gave the seamers a perfunctory burst; Guest and the nightwatchman, Alex Hughes, knocked the ball around calmly enough and the thought occurred that Derbyshire might only need to bat well for a session to make the game relatively safe.
But that was before factoring in the local spin kingpin. Harmer was introduced after six overs, two wickets to his name already, and he wheeled away through the afternoon to round up seven more; this was the fifth time he had taken eight or more in an innings for Essex, and his eventual figures of 9 for 80 were the 13th-best for the county, and second-best at Chelmsford. Four of the six best innings analyses on the ground have been wrought by Harmer’s dinner plate hands.
Hughes, the allrounder playing his first game of the season, showed as much nous as any of Derbyshire’s batsmen in trying to neutralise Harmer. He employed the sweep to good effect, and lasted for the best part of an hour before being lured out of his crease for Adam Wheater to effect a juggling stumping. That brought Derbyshire’s most-experienced batter to the crease, though Wayne Madsen was quickly in Harmer’s sights.
He might have fallen third ball, sweeping in the air out towards deep square leg where Paul Walter couldn’t cling on to a running, diving chance. A skittish innings came to a close the ball after he had lofted Harmer for a second six, done in the flight to turn a simple catch to leg slip; Madsen slumped on his bat handle, and Derbyshire were soon to be completely unmoored.
Despite the possibility of rain around – and play was again interrupted by a sharp shower shortly after Derbyshire began their second innings – none of the visiting batsmen bar Guest showed the intent to batten down the hatches for a lengthy stay at the crease. Matt Critchley, eighth on the run-scorers’ list going into this round, slapped his sixth ball back to the bowler to complete a 23rd Harmer five-for in Essex colours, and Harvey Hosein went two overs later as Ryan ten Doeschate snapped up a sharp chance at short leg straight off the face of the bat.
Never mind the precipitatin’, Harmer was prestidigitatin’. Guest was next to go, for what was at the time a career-best 49, as the ball looped up off the front pad to be taken by ten Doeschate – a hint of glove enough for Ian Blackwell to raise his finger, never mind Guest’s crestfallen demeanour. Billy Stanlake never looked likely to last long, and although Dustin Melton hit Harmer out of the ground during a brief bout of tail-end tonking, a stinging return catch completed his haul. Derbyshire had lost six wickets in six consecutive Harmer overs, and the credits appeared ready to roll.
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
Recent Match Report – Glamorgan vs Yorkshire Group 3 2021
Glamorgan 149 (Brook 3-13, Patterson 3-27) and 108 for 3 (Carlson 44*, Lloyd 40*) lead Yorkshire 230 (Root 99, Patterson 47*, Neser 5-39) by 28 runs
Joe Root moved inexorably towards his hundred with the precision of a ticking clock. An old-time image for an old-time innings. The world could do much as it pleased, nothing would change his tempo. Then, on 99, the clock stopped.
Root has 31 first-class hundreds, but only eight of them have come for Yorkshire. Even as a feted international player, one who bears an onerous responsibility as England’s Test captain, his desire to succeed for his county remains implanted. He would surely yearn for more.
Medium-pacer Dan Douthwaite, who seamed the ball back sharply between bat and pad, was the bowler who stopped time. What’s more, Douthwaite revealed, his teammate, Kiran Carlson, predicted it.
“It was weird how it happened,” Douthwaite said. “Kiran Carlson stood at mid-off two balls before and said I was going to get him out trying to dab it down to third man and he would chop it on to the stumps and he did. I was telling him at the time to go away and let me focus on my bowling. That is the first time I have had someone predict a wicket and it has actually happened.”
If Root didn’t quite manage the century that had seemed inevitable, he looked in good trim ahead of the New Zealand Test series. His superbly controlled innings gave Yorkshire a chance of victory. That’s if you don’t believe in weather forecasts – Sunday’s analysis suggests that these sides will be collecting draw points.
England’s IPL contingent have spent much of the past fortnight in quarantine while the likes of Root have benefited from an extensive programme of Championship cricket, albeit played in empty stadiums and in largely cheerless conditions. It has not been a cakewalk. Remove his century against Kent at Canterbury and he had made 114 runs in seven innings. That rediscovered rhythm had been hard-won.
That Root’s success has been far from automatic illustrates that bowlers have held sway and also points to the difficulties that even the most driven world-class player encounters when the prestige of a fixture diminishes and the pressure relents. Nevertheless, it also tells that this season’s Conference structure has not been a succession of mismatches that many anticipated. It is a format that is gaining popularity and makes the structure for 2022 a debate still to be won and lost.
Glamorgan, down 81 on first innings, and seeded fifth out of six in Group One, might have capitulated when the Australian, Marnus Labuschagne, was bowled for a duck in an awkward 26-over finish to the day, but David Lloyd and Carlson played with typical freedom in slightly easing conditions in giving them a lead of 27 runs with seven wickets remaining at the close. Carlson’s batting approach does not suffer from modesty and, with his 23rd birthday hours away, he looked to be a player worth keeping an eye on.
Not that Root defied Glamorgan single-handedly in giving Yorkshire that 81-run lead. At 111 for 8, they were imperilled, still 39 behind in seamer-friendly conditions. For a top-order batsman, eight-down often demands a rethink. Root observed his captain, Steven Patterson, and recognised a mulishness that demanded respect. Between them, another 118 were added in 33 overs. The match shifted.
Root was accomplished, his innings an exercise in precision. Patterson existed on defiance and an occasional square cut that he delivered with a flourish. He was far from rhythmic: if he had been a ticking clock, nobody would have had a clue what time it was. He survived a tough chance to backward point before he had scored, took several blows to the body and stubbornly insisted on his right to stick around. But his commitment was exemplary and he also deserved – and missed – his own statistical landmark, a fifth first-class 50, when he was left stranded on 47.
Glamorgan’s tactics were strange. The Australian, Michael Neser, who had 3 for 15 overnight, soon had a five-for, including the frisky debutant wicketkeeper, Harry Duke, who was treated to a bouncer first ball, took it on, and spliced a catch to square leg. (First-ball duck or not, we will hear more of Duke). But Neser only bowled eight overs all day and must surely have a niggle.
Michael Hogan, the other senior strike bowler, spent the day bowling into the wind. The next bouncer of note to the ninth-wicket pair was delivered by Labuschagne, a part-time legspinner, and it disappeared for four byes. Andrew Salter had a spell of off-spin more out of respect than logic. Like Dom Bess, an England offspinner in Yorkshire’s side, he would have been better rendered idle.
Root survived a strong leg-before appeal from Timm van der Gugten on 87, but otherwise picked out singles at will. His late cut to third man – the one where he might be picking his own pocket – would have had Fagin singing with delight. But, with Root on 99, Douthwaite cut Patterson in half with a big break-back that went for four byes. The warning was there. Root did not play the shot, but he might have anticipated it. His stumps were disturbed and Douthwaite gestured in triumph towards Carlson at mid off as if he had known the plan would work all along.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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