Harris fit for his defining Ashes series
Ryan Harris will make his return to the bowling crease in Australia A's match against Gloucestershire in Bristol on Friday, as he steels himself for an Ashes campaign that looms as the defining moment of his international career.
After a carefully managed recovery from an Achilles complaint that forced him home early from the IPL, Harris yearns to make a lasting impression in the 10 Tests against England, and is equally bullish about the quality of Australia's pace bowling resources.
A much admired figure in Australian cricket, Harris has been interrupted by injury at too many junctures of his late blooming career, but the repeated setbacks have not dimmed his desire to contribute as a high class new-ball bowler, nor his value to the team when fit. At 33, he will also bring valuable experience and perspective to an Australian dressing room that has shown increasing signs of dysfunction over recent months, ever since Michael Hussey's decision to follow Ricky Ponting into retirement.
"I'm looking forward to playing and can't wait to get out there and get back into bowling, not Twenty20 style bowling but proper bowling, and getting into good spells," Harris said in Bristol. "Hopefully bowling 20-30 overs would be nice. Leaving India wasn't ideal, but getting home and getting the treatment I needed, the Achilles actually reacted really well to treatment, so coming over here and being able to bowl lots and lots of balls in the nets has been great. In saying that I've just about had a gut-full of that, I'm ready to bowl in games.
"In regards to my rehab, this is the reason why you have to get through and get back and rehab and do all the stuff. I wanted to be here in an Ashes series in England, and I want to play the one in Australia if things go to plan.
"They're the things that keep you going. And love of playing the game as well that's what's keeps you going. 'You're a long time retired,' that's what I keep being told, so there are a lot of gym sessions and stuff where I woke up in the morning and didn't want to go but had to go, had to get strong. This is the reason why - I wanted to be here for the Ashes."
A handsome record of 47 wickets at 23.63 from 12 Tests is one of the major reasons the national selectors, aware that his best is close to irresistible, have kept faith with Harris. Moving the ball both ways at high pace and with a skidding trajectory, Harris has earned occasional comparisons with the likes of Dale Steyn and James Anderson. The latter is leader of a formidable England attack, but Harris had no qualms rating Australia's pacemen in similar terms, noting their growth together as a unit.
"I wouldn't say he's the benchmark," Harris said of Anderson. "He's consistent and been so over the past couple of years, which puts him up there as one of the best in the world and he probably deserves that title. But our attack, we've got a very good attack if not better. We've got good pace and when the boys get it right we've got good consistency. James Pattinson has come back, he's been bowling unbelievably well and fast during the trial games.
"Peter Siddle's doing the same, Mitchell Starc he's another one - he's come back from injury and if he goes anywhere near what he was doing last summer, which I'm hoping, [Alastair] Cook will find it very tough facing him with those big thunderbolts going away from him. Our attack is suited for these conditions and we've got one of the best attacks in the world over here.
"The camaraderie [among the bowlers] is excellent. We're all good mates. If we have to rest someone or if someone does go down, touch wood they don't, but the guy who is stepping in can do the same sort of job. We've spent a lot of time together so we know each other very well. We hang out and eat dinner together and talk about the game together which is really good. I think it's a really healthy relationship."
As for a rash of dire predictions about Australia's likely performance in the series, Harris said recent form had given observers little else to conclude. But he was forthright in his belief that Australia's best would be good enough, and that the team was preparing as meticulously as possible for the task at hand.
"We're not worried about that sort of stuff we're going to cop that we haven't played good cricket in the past six months. We know that," he said. "We're here to play good cricket, that's why the Australia A team have been here, the Champions Trophy boys have had enough training in these conditions. We came here and acclimatised to these conditions early and that's all we can do. If we go out there and don't play our best cricket, we'll get beaten. If we play our best cricket we'll win."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here