By Adam Ellis
Morne Morkel bowled through the pain to finish the fourth Test between South Africa and Australia and bow out of international cricket with a win to savour.
The paceman was dogged by a side strain in the last two days of the Wanderers Test, which South Africa won by 429 runs thanks to a sensational spell from Vernon Philander in the second innings, but stayed on the field to receive a guard of honour once the final wicket had fallen.
The 33-year-old announced in February that the series against Australia would be his last before retiring as a Proteas great after 86 Tests.
Speaking to the media, Morkel commented: “When you play in front of your home crowd, like at Newlands and here for the first couple of days, it is amazing.
“Those are the sort of things I’m going to miss a lot. I’m really going to miss the banter in the change room, but I’m also excited for the new guy who’s going to come into the team and enjoy this journey. It’s a really special journey.
“A lot of guys say they don’t miss the game, but I’m definitely going to miss it,’ he said. ‘Not one day did I not enjoy coming to the nets and warm-ups. I enjoyed everything. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t going to miss it. I still have a love of the game,” Morkel said, leaving the press conference to a standing ovation.
“As a youngster I watched cricket and saw that South Africa had a tough time overseas. When we beat Australia the first time and (Jacques) Kallis was crying on the bus, you sort of realised what it meant,” he said.
Morkel was identified by Graeme Smith as the fast bowler to bring the bounce when the South Africa national side was revamped with youth under their new captain in 2006. An opportunity and journey Morkel said was a significant part of his career.
“To be part of that and create a team culture and identity with Graeme Smith as our leader and with Gary (Kirsten), that for me was very special.
“Since then walking onto the field for South Africa was unbelievable so that was a big turnaround for me in my international career.”
Morkel is expected to join Surrey on a Kolpak deal for the 2018 season to bring the calibre of 300 Test wickets to the Oval.
Genuinely a proud moment where I get to honour 1 of the greatest humans I know. @mornemorkel65 a true servant to the Proteas and this beautiful game we play. All the best on the final stretch in closing a chapter that I’ve had the privilege to be apart of. Go well my friend. #65 pic.twitter.com/tslYpaXq2k
— JP Duminy (@jpduminy21) March 29, 2018
— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) April 3, 2018
Well done Proteas. Great series win against Aus. Congrats @mornemorkel65 on a fantastic career.
— Jacques Kallis (@jacqueskallis75) April 3, 2018
— Cricket South Africa (@OfficialCSA) April 3, 2018
Well done brother @mornemorkel65. End of a real success story. In the end family wins.. Enjoy life!
— Albie Morkel (@albiemorkel) April 3, 2018