Illustrious career: Morné Morkel celebrates one of his five wickets in Australia’s second innings at Newlands. Picture: EJ LANGER/GALLO IMAGES
Illustrious career: Morné Morkel celebrates one of his five wickets in Australia’s second innings at Newlands. Picture: EJ LANGER/GALLO IMAGES

Morné Morkel is 1.96m tall. He wears size 13 boots. His Adam’s apple sticks out like a ramp model’s hip bones. He is no one’s idea of a mom. Or‚ as it turns out‚ not quite no one.

"There’s been a lot of good stuff said over the last while about Morné, but he was almost‚ for the first six‚ seven or eight years of his career‚ the guy that went unnoticed‚" Faf du Plessis said at Newlands.

"He was the workhorse. He got his two or three-fors and I think only captains really appreciate the work Morné does.

"He is not the guy that gets five-fors. Dale Steyn‚ Kagiso Rabada of late‚ they get the five-fors on regular occasions. Morné does the donkey work."

But on Sunday it was Morkel’s turn to shine.

He ripped through Australia’s second innings‚ taking 5/23 and claiming all his scalps in the space of 33 of his deliveries in which he conceded 14 runs.

It was Morkel’s eighth five-wicket haul in his 85th Test. His match figures of 9/110 are the best of his career and helped SA beat Australia by 322 with a day to spare in the third Test to take a 2-1 series lead.

Morkel’s career will soon end: he is set to retire after the fourth Test at the Wanderers‚ which starts on Friday.

"He works hard‚" Du Plessis said. "He runs in all day. He never says: ‘I’ve bowled enough’. You tell him it’s enough and then still he wants to bowl more and more. That’s a captain’s dream. As a performer‚ he is going to be missed.

"He has been a mother figure in the team‚ with a big heart. We are going to miss that.

"It’s size 13 boots that need to be filled. Those are big shoes.

"But we understand his decision. It’s a decision for his future and his family."

Sat alongside Du Plessis‚ Morkel’s expression slid from appreciative to puzzled when Du Plessis reached for the m-word. When it was his turn to talk‚ he had only good things to say. "Today is the highlight of my life. If I get asked the question again‚ ‘what is your most memorable or special moment’‚ the answer will definitely be today."

Was it good enough that he might reconsider his decision to hang up those big boots?

"It’s tough‚ especially leaving a quality group of men in the changeroom‚" he said.

"It is going to be sad but I suppose all good things come to an end."

Maybe not: they say a mother’s work is never done.

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