JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

In the age of group think, Ryan Harris is one of a kind

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Video will begin in 5 seconds.

Video settings

Please Log in to update your video settings

Watson injury puts Australia under pressure

Australia are up against it after another century by Ian Bell and an injury for Shane Watson swung the fourth Ashes Test in England's favour, says Fairfax cricket reporter Chris Barrett.

PT0M0S 620 349

One of the many joys of Kanga and pre-teen cricket is that, as everyone gets an equal turn, there is no such thing as a 'batting group' and a 'bowling group'.

Throat ball: Ian Bell avoids a bouncer from Ryan Harris.

Throat ball: Ian Bell avoids a bouncer from Ryan Harris. Photo: Reuters

Socialistic it may be, but in the under-8s you don't get two groups going out to dinner to moan about each other.

It's different in Test cricket, though some would say that in the current Australian team the bowling group is the batting group as well, and those other guys are making up the numbers. There is every ground for a proletarian revolution. If that's not happening, it owes something to the foreman, Ryan Harris.

Here is a snapshot of Harris's effort at Chester-le-Street on Sunday. It's late in the afternoon and he has bowled 36 overs in a match for which many predicted he would have to rest his tender body. Harris has, earlier in the day, removed England's top three batsmen: Joe Root with a snorting outswinger, Alastair Cook by feeding a feeble cover-drive, and Jonathan Trott with a smart, fast bouncer. Each wicket was different, and each was thought-out. Between times, Harris has probed and nagged, switching from new-ball taipan to old-ball python, striker to strangler. His average pace only drops by half a metre but each delivery has subtle differences.

Near miss: Ryan Harris reacts as Kevin Pietersen escapes with a run.

Near miss: Ryan Harris reacts as Kevin Pietersen escapes with a run. Photo: Reuters

As the English batsmen have steadily asserted themselves, Harris has not relented. He has bustled and grunted and kept going. This effort helps explain why, like Kingston Town, he has kept breaking down. He doesn't know how to let up. Meanwhile, Shane Watson drags himself off by the sore hip and/or groin.

Even Peter Siddle is flagging.

Oh, and Harris has also made time, in his day's work, to score 28 valuable runs; and made a noteworthy diving double-save in the field, cutting off a Kevin Pietersen drive. A Kanga cricketer supreme.

Brad Haddin leaps high to dismiss Jonathan Trott from Harris' bowling.

Brad Haddin leaps high to dismiss Jonathan Trott from Harris' bowling. Photo: Getty Images

So, amid failing light, in comes Jonny Bairstow to up the run-rate and seize the game. He slaps Harris for two fours. Harris walks to his captain. He looks pained. The chronic knee? The chronic hamstring? No. He would like a leg gully. He is going to bowl around the wicket at Bairstow's throat.

Often, in these circumstances, bowlers play the reverse game and send up a yorker or full-pitched away-swinger. Harris can't be bothered with disguise.

His next three balls are vicious. Even though they are fully predictable, it is all Bairstow can do to get out of their way.

The teams go off, briefly, for bad light. When they return, Harris is still bullocking in from around the wicket, but now he wants his leg gully moved to bat-pad. The ball is nearly 60 overs old, the pitch a good deal older. Harris attacks again. His bouncers are not lame half-trackers, and nor do they pass harmlessly over the top. They are perfectly accurate and harmful.

Ian Bell, the batsman of the series, comes on strike. Harris pitches up and Bell drives him handsomely through cover. That's enough. He wants, he says later, to 'mess up Bell's feet'. Two balls later, Harris delivers a bouncer that pins Bell to an invisible crucifix. The batsman of the series, 84 not out, is momentarily splayed mid-air, head and limbs whiplashing, like a photo from pre-helmet days.

Bell, a model of composure, picks himself up with a blush like a ballroom dancer who has hit the deck. Yes, that messed up his feet, and worked its way up. Harris comes in and bowls him another bouncer, right at the thorax.

Then, to almost everyone's relief, Michael Clarke gives Harris a rest and the light goes out of the contest.

There is no grumbling about team factions from Harris. You would have to travel the world to find a fellow cricketer who will not give him a glowing character reference. He has a British passport, and might have been playing for the other side. Heaven help us. He came to Test cricket late in life, because his skills took time to develop, his body was unreliable, and selectors were not quick to recognise a bowler who wasn't as tall, lithe or fast as fashion dictated. This Ashes cause may be lost, but the series scoreline ought to record such heroes, whether they be unsung or, as Harris deserves, sung.

14 comments so far

  • Wonderful column Mr Knox. The Guardian might have the best cricket coverage and nearly the best cricket journo's but they don't have you(yet) and that's more than enough reason to keep buying the SMH.

    Harris and Watson, polar opposites of the big heart brigade aren't they. You could imagine Harris in the Black Knight skit couldn't you.

    Commenter
    Susan
    Location
    Goonellabah
    Date and time
    August 12, 2013, 6:35AM
    • Ryan Harris?

      Played hard done good.

      Commenter
      Foghorn Leghorn
      Date and time
      August 12, 2013, 8:32AM
      • Yep, Foghorn Leghorn, he sure did. 7 wickets, played bloody hard, done amazingly good.

        Commenter
        Wysiwyg Sydney
        Date and time
        August 12, 2013, 10:39PM
    • I saw him pant with exertion after every spell. He literally puts his all into every over. Legend.

      Commenter
      Greg D
      Date and time
      August 12, 2013, 11:29AM
      • Thank you for such a great tribute to a truly great player. Ryan Harris is everything that is good about Test cricket.

        Commenter
        MaryS
        Date and time
        August 12, 2013, 11:57AM
        • Good that Siddle, the only verifiably true adult previously in the side, has been joined by another in Chris Rogers; congrats on his maiden Test century, and especially for his adult patience and perseverance in his 90s. most of the rest of our so-called Test players will need some basic primary school type lessons on what "patience and perseverance" mean.

          Commenter
          40 Degrees S
          Date and time
          August 12, 2013, 3:39PM
          • Despite our loss in the Fourth Test, it does looks as if Siddle has been joined by more adults in the team.

            Now, if only we can get Cricket Australia to focus on adult cricket, and to stop playing with themselves in the T20 side-show.

            Commenter
            40 Degrees S
            Date and time
            August 13, 2013, 1:46PM
        • When there is the same work ethic from all the players in the squad, the results will be amazing!

          Commenter
          Maggie
          Date and time
          August 12, 2013, 5:33PM
          • I assume that if he is a holder of a British passport he or a predecessor was born England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. If it was any of the others excluding England would he automatically qualify to play for England?

            Commenter
            Eligible???
            Date and time
            August 13, 2013, 2:51AM
            • His Dad is from Leicester. He played for Sussex against the MCC as a "non-overseas" player, so I guess he has a British passport.

              Commenter
              PhilS
              Date and time
              August 13, 2013, 8:45PM

          More comments

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.