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   Jul 05

Ashes 2015: Ryan Harris leaves legacy for Australia far greater than his 27 Tests

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Nanjing Night Net

CHELMSFORD: As is the case with retirements in all walks of life, from politics to showbiz to the office, the greatest indicator of Ryan Harris’s standing in cricket came in how his exit was received.

There was a cruel inevitability about his announcement on Saturday. The bung right knee that plagued his career had finally got him.

As the news was digested, though, the plaudits came in thick and fast from all and sundry. England players Stuart Broad and Ian Bell were among the first to stick their heads up, suspending the usual pre-Ashes fun and games to pay tribute.

“Really sad to hear this, great competitor and from the beers I’ve shared with him a top top bloke,” Broad said.

The England fast bowler might have been seen as a villainous figure through Australian eyes when he turned up on our shores two summers ago but he will gain no enemies with that statement because it is dead-on correct.

You would be hard pressed to find a more popular player, among his own teammates and opposition sides, than Harris. He was universally rated. And the fact that he barrelled in, bursting through the pain barrier time and time again, only made those who played alongside him admire him more.

“If I asked him to run through a brick wall for him and this team I think he’d have a crack at it,” Michael Clarke said at Harris’s retirement press conference at the Essex County Ground on Saturday.

A lion-hearted performer if there ever was one, he repeatedly put his team before the toil endured by a body that didn’t always play ball. He was playing through the discomfort brought on by the same knee, and a hip injury, when Michael Clarke was searching for a way to somehow collect the remaining South African wickets on the final afternoon in Cape Town last year as Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander held them at bay.

Not for the first time Clarke turned to Harris and he summoned the strength within that hulking frame to clinch a famous, last-gasp win over the world’s top-ranked team, The image of him running round wildly in celebration is a lasting one.

Harris’s feats in a losing team in England in 2013 also come to mind as the Australians ready themselves to begin another Ashes series abroad.

It was no fault of his that the final result of that series was 3-0 in England’s favour – only Graeme Swann took more wickets despite Harris sitting out the first Test – and in the fourth Test in Durham his second-innings performance, claiming 7-117, gave Australia the opportunity to win a game they wouldn’t have been in without him.

The unplayable delivery that seamed away and knocked back Joe Root’s off stump – like the similarly memorable ripper that deceived Alastair Cook and clipped the touring captain’s off bail in Perth a few months later – wouldn’t have quickly been forgotten by England’s batsmen.

Harris’s deeds here two years ago and his smarts in being able to pick apart opposition batsmen reinforce what a loss his absence is to Australia’s Ashes’ campaign even if their pace stocks remain strong. So does this statistic: since his entry into Test cricket in 2010 no Australian, not even Mitchell Johnson, has taken more wickets against England than him.

Even if Harris wasn’t going to feature in Wednesday’s first Test in Cardiff there could barely have been a more credentialled bowler to have in reserve, to perhaps bring in at Lord’s a week afterwards or at some other point in the series, particularly if things were not going quite to plan.

If that is the case, the full weight of what the Australians will be missing may only become clear later in this English summer.

A late-comer to Test cricket – he didn’t play for Australia until he was 29, after a move from South Australia to Queensland – Harris played a mere 27 Tests but leaves a legacy well beyond that.

“He’s as good as anyone to play for Australia,” Clarke said, and there wasn’t a hint of hyperbole about it.

The only shame is that we did not see more of him.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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