Big Bash League: South African skyscraper Morne Morkel heading to Heat as Thunder land Sam Billings

South Africa fast bowling giant Morne Morkel has given the Big Bash a timely injection of star power by signing with the Brisbane Heat.

Morkel, 36, who lives in Sydney with media presenter wife Roz, who was raised in Queensland, is one of the biggest names to join the Heat.

Morkel has signed on as a local which means he will not take up one of the three import spaces.

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Morne Morkel has signed up to play with Brisbane Heat.Source:AFP

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The 1.96m skyscraper is friends with Heat assistant coach James Hopes who captained Morkel in the Indian Premier League.

Morkel took 309 wickets in his 86 Tests and his experience will be vital in a Heat team which has struggled for consistency in recent years.

Capable of extracting unnerving bounce, he took nine wickets in the infamous Cape Town Test two years ago which featured the ball tampering scandal.

Morkel retired from international cricket at the end of that series.

Morkel dismissed Ricky Ponting six times in Tests and his prancing deliveries were a particularly awkward challenge for the Australian tail with Ryan Harris declaring him the most difficult bowler he faced.

Morkel played one game for the Perth Scorchers last season but his signing for the full season is a boon for a competition craving big name imports.

Morkel announced ended his stint with English county Surrey on Thursday, declaring he would not return for a fourth season due to quarantine restrictions of the COVID era. He has recently battled a major ankle injury after standing on a ball.

Morkel played one game for Perth Scorchers in last year’s BBL.Source:News Corp Australia

“The time has come to move onto a new chapter,” Morkel said in a letter to Surrey supporters who have fond memories of him leading the side to a county championship in his first season.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine requirements has made travel challenging and it is no longer feasible to spend large amounts of time away from home and my family.’’

Morkel’s signing will bolster the Heat’s pace bowling ranks following the departure of Ben Cutting and James Pattinson.

Eager Thunder get top Billing

English white ball star Sam Billings has signed a bumper deal with the Sydney Thunder after feeling snubbed by his old club, the Sixers, writes Ben Horne.

The Sixers insist they would have been interested in the big-hitting finisher, but timing worked against them before their cross-town rivals swept in.

Billings hammered a barnstorming hundred against Australia in Manchester two months ago and England’s international schedule will allow him to play virtually the entire BBL season, making him one of the competition’s most prized marquee signings to date.

Sam Billings impressed against the Aussies in September.Source:Getty Images

It would appear Billings has already circled the Thunder’s January 13 Sydney showdown against the Sixers, after hinting he felt underwhelmed by the Sixers interest in getting back after he was season MVP for them a couple of years ago.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with the Sixers. I really enjoyed my time there. I got the MVP award for the Sixers the last year I played (2018). For some reason or another it didn’t quite work out and the thing that really drew me towards the Thunder was how keen they were and pinpointed me, and showed a huge sort of backing from day one in terms of wanting to sign me,” Billings told News Corp.

“That’s huge for any player when you know they really want you and I definitely want to play for a club that really wants me. That was the biggest thing for me and something that I got straight away from the Thunder.

“… I don’t want to say anything too combative … but you can take what you want from that.”

Sixers General Manager Jodie Hawkins described Billings as a “ripper guy” and said the Sixers would have” loved to have him back”, but they had complications with their recruitment that meant the Thunder were in a better position.

The Sixers were one of only two clubs in the league that had overseas players still on contract for this season, and all teams have found it difficult conducting negotiations with overseas players given the extenuating circumstances of COVID-19.

It’s understood the Sixers were one club who also went down the path of chasing West Indian IPL whiz Nicholas Pooran, before he pulled out at the 11th hour.

Billings played with the Sixers in BBL07.Source:News Corp Australia

The Thunder have assembled a strong and well-balanced overseas arsenal of Billings, fellow England ace Alex Hales and New Zealand speed demon Adam Milne.

Billings hit Mitchell Starc into a distant carpark during the recent international series in England and arrives to the BBL as a man in his prime.

“I’ll be honest it had been a pretty hard 12 months for me previously. I had a shoulder reconstruction and missed the World Cup (won by England), and no one wants that,” said Billings.

“But it turned out to be a fantastic learning experience. I gained a lot of perspective and gave me time to acknowledge the areas I needed to improve.

“To me this summer (against Australia) was a real positive, because the hard work I’d done while I was injured and all those dark times, it all pays off.

“England v Australia is the biggest rivalry so it’s definitely something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

Originally published asThe dream drawcards adding to Big Bash firepower

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