Bowling star Morné Morkel. Picture: SUPPLIED
Bowling star Morné Morkel. Picture: SUPPLIED

There will be a hole 1.96m tall in SA’s attack from April with the news that Morné Morkel has pulled the plug on his international career.

Morkel told reporters in Durban on Monday that the Test series against Australia‚ which starts at Kingsmead on Thursday and is scheduled to end at the Wanderers on April 3‚ would be the last in which he would okay in an SA shirt.

"It was an extremely tough decision, but I feel the time is right to start a new chapter‚" Morkel said. "I have a young family and a foreign wife‚ and the current demanding international schedule has put a lot of strain on us."

Theories that Morkel was thinking of calling it quits have swirled for months‚ with the prevailing version that he would try to make it to the 2019 World Cup. In September 2017 the fast bowler said he would seek clarity from then new SA coach Ottis Gibson on the issue.

Morkel was SA’s leading wicket-taker in the Test series in England in 2017 and he claimed 13 against India this summer. He is in the form of his career and an important part of a bowling unit that is undergoing change in the shape of intermittent injuries to stalwarts such as Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander.

So‚ why retire now?

His father‚ Albert Morkel‚ told the Mumbai Mirror in January: "He [Morné] is 33 and can’t wait too long. There have been developments in which there is no guarantee his place is assured in the SA XI.

"In the absence of any such assurances‚ he would leave for England. Three major counties have offered him deals."

The fast bowler denied the story at the time‚ saying: "There are still plenty of goals I want to achieve."

It seems he will chase those goals at other levels. "I still feel there is a lot of cricket left in me and I am excited for what lies ahead‚" he said on Monday.

Morkel has taken 294 wickets in his 83 Tests‚ which puts him in fifth place on SA’s list of wicket takers. In 117 one-day internationals he took 188 wickets at an economy rate of 4.95.