Surrey have signed South African fast bowler Morne Morkel on a two-year Kolpak deal, the club confirmed on Tuesday (April 10).
Morkel played his last Test match for South Africa in their 492-run victory over Australia in Johannesburg last week after announcing ahead of the four-Test series that he would retire from international cricket. In the third Test in Cape Town, Morkel took his 300th Test wicket, becoming just the fifth South African to reach the landmark.
A left side strain sustained in the Johannesburg Test means Morkel will not make his debut for Surrey in their opening Championship match of the season against Hampshire at the Oval beginning on April 20, and it remains to be seen when he will be fit enough to take the field. A similar injury to the same left side at the start of South Africa’s home summer ruled Morkel out of action for eleven weeks although it is not thought to be as severe this time.
Once returned to fitness, he will be available for all the county’s matches in the County Championship, the One-Day Cup and the T20 Blast and becomes the latest in a growing contingent of South African players who have signed Kolpak deals with English counties in recent seasons following the likes of Hampshire’s Kyle Abbott and Essex’s Simon Harmer.
Unlike Abbott and Harmer, the 33 year-old is in the latter stages of his career and cited family reasons for his decision to retire from international cricket, saying in February: “It was an extremely tough decision but I feel the time is right to start a new chapter. I have a young family and a foreign wife, and the current demanding international schedule has put a lot of strain us. I have to put them first and this decision will only benefit us going forward.”
Morkel’s arrival at the Oval is a much needed boost for Surrey’s seam bowling stocks following Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh’s withdrawal from his contract with the county because he needs an ankle surgery, and Tom Curran’s signing by Kolkata Knight Riders to play in the IPL. Experienced West Indian seamer Ravi Rampaul also left the club during the off-season to join Derbyshire and although Rikki Clarke has returned from Warwickshire, Morkel is a welcome addition.
The South African, who played 86 Tests, 117 ODIs and 44 T20Is, is currently ranked seventh in the ICC’s Test bowling rankings and took 15 wickets at 19.60 in the series victory over Australia. Despite recent injury issues, including a serious back injury in 2016, Morkel will add pace and bounce to Surrey’s attack and should find the traditionally hard and true Oval surface to his liking despite a mixed record at the venue – nine wickets at 38.66 – in the three Tests he has played there.
“It is a real honour that Surrey asked me to join their club after my retirement from international cricket,” Morkel said. “I’ve got fond memories of playing at the Kia Oval and am looking forward to settling into London with my family for the summer, making new friendships with teammates and hopefully great memories on and off the field.”
Director of Cricket, Alec Stewart, added: “Following his retirement from international cricket I am very pleased that Morne has signed for Surrey for at least the next two years. He has had an outstanding career with South Africa and is a player that will add enormous strength and experience to our squad. His appetite to continue playing and most importantly performing was very evident from our very first conversation.
“He sets exceedingly high standards for himself and for our young bowlers to have the opportunity to train and play alongside Morne can only help to develop their own games. We look forward to welcoming Morne and his family to the Kia Oval for the start of the season.”