Perth Scorchers express quick returns career-best BBL season after not expecting to be involved in many matches
Empty net to big crowds: Huge factor helps Morris expand game
At the start December as the Big Bash rolled around for another season, Lance Morris didn't see himself playing much for the Perth Scorchers, let alone be selected by the league's eight coaches in the tournament's best XI.
Instead, the 25-year-old express quick was setting his sights on a potential Test debut and another summer spent touring with the Australian squad, learning from arguably the world's best pace attack.
But with Australia's 'big three' of Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood as fit as ever, and with Scott Boland waiting in the wings, Morris was released to the BBL following the first Test against Pakistan in Perth.
It's meant he's been able to put into practice the skills he'd learnt training alongside the likes of Cummins, Starc and Hazlewood over the 12 months prior, which he hopes can help him earn a long-awaited Australia debut during next month's ODI series against the West Indies.
"It's the privilege to play games rather than bowl to an empty net, it makes a huge difference, it really does," Morris said today ahead of the Scorchers sudden-death Knockout final against the Adelaide Strikers in Perth on Saturday.
"I probably didn't even see myself being involved with the Scorchers as much as I have, and managed to get in a pretty solid campaign and expand my white-ball skills."
The variety of deliveries now in Morris' arsenal has been a key feature of his career-best BBL campaign this season, where his 13 wickets striking once on average every two overs with an economy rate of under eight runs an over delivered him Team of the Tournament honours.
According to data provided by Opta, the right-arm speedster used just four different deliveries in his five matches for the Scorchers last season – his stock ball, slower ball, inswinger and off-cutter.
This summer he's also added a wobble seam delivery both away and into the batter, as well as an outswinger and leg-cutter.
And it seems to have delivered Morris more wicket-taking options, with his 13 dismissals split among his stock ball (84.6 per cent), slower ball (7.7) and leg-cutter (7.7), compared to just his stock ball (88.9) and slower delivery (11.1) in BBL|12.
A greater variance in his lengths in BBL|13 has also proven another weapon, including being able to execute his yorker (which he didn't last season) and more deliveries hammering back of a length into the rib cage of batters, which has accounted for 46.2 per cent of his BBL wickets this summer.
Although yet to make his international debut in any format, Morris believes that "expanding of his game" has been the biggest benefit of his time spent with the Test squad, which included four Tests against the West Indies and South Africa during the 2022-23 summer and Australia's four-match tour of India, which meant he missed being part of the Scorchers' BBL|13 title win after playing the five games leading up to the Final.
"It's awesome travelling with the Aussie guys but nothing replicates playing cricket," Morris said.
"(I've been) putting a few things into practice – having the bravery to take it out in the middle was tough, but I made a conscious effort to try a few different things and expand my game this year.
"It's something you can only get with experience.
"When the pressure is on and you're in front of a big crowd, you need to fall back on to your strengths and it only comes through playing a lot of cricket.
"I've been extremely grateful to have the opportunity to play a decent amount of Big Bash this year … I'm absolutely stoked to be mentioned in that (Team of the Tournament)."
After a final-ball loss to the Sixers at the Optus Stadium fortress last Tuesday where he admits a "lack of execution" with the ball cost them victory and a double-chance, Morris says a key focus for the Scorchers attack leading into this Saturday has been the wickets of the Strikers' two Shorts at the top – the tournament's top run-scorer Matt and his West Australian teammate D'Arcy.
Morris has already claimed both of their wickets in BBL|13, removing Matt Short in a T20 career-best haul of 5-24 the last time the two sides met in Perth, before claiming D'Arcy Short two days later during the return clash in Adelaide, which the Strikers won by nine wickets to kickstart their four-match unbeaten run to storm into the finals.
"You want to see the back of them pretty early so that'll be a big focus for us as a bowling unit and hopefully squeezing them early on," he said.
"Having a full stadium here at Optus is amazing, it's definitely another layer to what's been our success here, and hopefully we can have another bumper crowd on Saturday."
KFC BBL|13 Finals Schedule
The Qualifier: Sydney Sixers beat Brisbane Heat by 39 runs
The Knockout: Perth Scorchers v Adelaide Strikers, January 20, 7.40pm AEDT, Optus Stadium
The Challenger: Brisbane Heat v winner of the Knockout, January 22, 7.40pm AEDT, Carrara Stadium, Gold Coast
The Final: Sydney Sixers v winner of the Challenger. January 24, 7.15pm AEDT, SCG