England news October 6, 2013

Steve Harmison retires from cricket

ESPNcricinfo staff

Steve Harmison, the former England fast bowler who took 223 wickets in 63 Tests, has retired from cricket, bringing to an end a 17-year career with Durham. Harmison did not play a game in the club's 2013 County Championship-winning campaign and his contract subsequently expired.

"I was hoping to go out on a high in my benefit year but my body has not allowed me to, and I have not made a single first-team appearance," Harmison told the local Sunday Sun newspaper. "With my contract up at the end of the season, I have known for a while I would be calling it a day."

After making his Test debut against India at Trent Bridge in 2002, Harmison also played in 58 ODIs, picking up 76 wickets at an average of 32.64. He also played two T20s against Australia and Sri Lanka. He was an integral part of the England squad that clinched the historic 2005 Ashes 2-1, taking 17 wickets from five matches.

His retirement, following that of Matthew Hoggard last month and Andrew Flintoff three years ago, means that only Simon Jones, of England's four-man pace attack in that series, is still playing.

Harmison famously produced figures of 7 for 12 against West Indies in Jamaica in 2004 and was briefly rated as the No. 1 bowler in the Test rankings later that year, but had admitted that he found touring difficult because of homesickness and once admitted: "I don't like travelling full stop - that's just me and I'll never change."

His decline - and his aversion to touring - was summed-up by the opening ball of the 2006-07 Ashes. Harmison, clearly struggling for form and confidence, delivered a wide that went straight to second slip and set the tone for a performance, both individually and collectively, that was well below the standards set in the 2005 series. He never recovered his best form.

When the Ashes were contested again in England in 2009, Harmison played in only two of the five Tests in what proved to be his last series as an international. His final first-class appearance came at Leicester in July last year when he was on loan with Yorkshire. Having played a big part in Durham's previous two title wins - Harmison was their leading wicket-taker in 2008 and 2009 - he was awarded a benefit season with the county in 2013 but only featured in six 2nd XI games.

"There have been good and bad times but the way I look at life is you always have to learn from your mistakes," Harmison said. "If you do, sometimes they're not a bad thing.

"No one's more frustrated than me at how little I've played for Durham in the last few years, but injuries are part of being a fast bowler.

"I had plenty of highlights in an England career that spanned nine years, during which time I became the world's top-ranked Test bowler."

While Harmison may have faded, taking some of the gloss off his career, there is no doubt that, at his best in the period between 2003-2005, he was one of the most formidable fast bowlers ever produced by England and a key part of the side's resurgence in those years.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anupam on October 10, 2013, 12:39 GMT

    Steve Harmission reminds us the Goliath bowlers whose only presence brings fear Same like West Indian era. Great work Steavie all the best!

  • Dummy4 on October 10, 2013, 2:00 GMT

    Front Foot Lounge,I remembered the Ricky Ponting incident and undoubtedly Steve Harmison has been a true competitor.I don't know if you have any recollection of this,but WI Shivnarine Chanderpaul hit him for 26 runs in an over during a One Day International played at Providence in Guyana.In that over Chanderpaul hit 5 fours and a six.It was a classy display of batting supremacy. But cricket is an unpredictable game and all kind of things happen.I wish him well in the future.

  • Brian on October 9, 2013, 18:56 GMT

    @Shan156: You are right about Harmison's record against India. It is in fact a curious record of England teams of his period that in spite of their much vaunted success elsewhere, they tended to struggle against Asian teams. Michael Vaughan - the captain who recorded the most test victories of any England captain, and undoubtedly the captain who got the best out of Harmison - never led England to a single test victory over India, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka, in eleven tests (drawn 7, lost 4). In contrast, even Flintoff, whose captaincy of England seemed so ill-fated, led them to a test victory in India - in a test moreover where England were without Harmison, Vaughan, Cook, or Trescothick, and where their match-winners including the unlikely combination of Owais Shah and Shaun Udal.

  • Shanmugam on October 8, 2013, 22:08 GMT

    @electric_loco_WAP4, "and a few notable tests/series winning showings v teams like Ind and SA "

    Harmy played 4 tests against India - 1 in England and 3 in India. England did not win any of them. They drew 2 and lost 2.

  • Mark on October 8, 2013, 13:34 GMT

    Steve Harmison was, by all accounts, a genuinely lovely bloke. I always regret that the one occasion that I was at Chester-Le-Street to watch a county match he was injured and out of the side. On early season pitches he was a genuinely fearsome prospect, as reflected in his returns year after year. He went out in a sadly low-key way, playing a couple of T20s in early May for Durhams 2nds v Scotland A and never played again.

    A large part of his problem was that he was a genuinely sensitive person who needed careful handling and needed to feel important to the team. Over his last winter playing for England he was in and out of the side 17(!!) times, which was no way to motivate him. Part of the problem was that he had a period of 9 months when his form was truly great and that saddled him with fans having unrealistic expectations and, thus, being frequently disappointed. There were few series between 2003 and 2009 where he did not put in at least one match-turning/winning performance.

  • Nicholas on October 7, 2013, 18:37 GMT

    2005 Ashes series, and in particular THAT over against Clarke that FFL has so neatly and graphically expressed, probably my most memorable experience of Harmy - even more-so than his Caribbean-Calypso stuff. I always wondered how England would have done had Harmy stayed in form and Simon Jones not been horribly injured...

    Ashes series in Aus. where he opened the series with THAT wide was always telling that something just wasn't right, at least not all the time anyway. Best of luck Harmy - I reckon your great nature would serve well in a coaching role for newby quicks...

  • Ian on October 7, 2013, 17:37 GMT

    Only Simon Jones left playing from the England attack of 2005. You wouldn't have thought that likely, would you?

  • Jason on October 7, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    At his absolute best, he was a genuinely unsettling prospect for even the best batsman, as he offered a terrifying combination of sheer speed, steepling bounce, and away swing. Even when not at his best, when the radar was malfunctioning, it could often be scarier, because the subsequent lack of control, and complete variety in line and length were never, ever compromised by a reduction in speed, and the risk to life and limb was considerable. I think it fair to say that even before he played international cricket, he was at or near the top of the list of bowlers most county batsmen least enjoyed facing. My favourite memory of him is not an obvious one: a brilliant 4-33 against SA on a super flat Oval pitch in 2003 where he ripped out Kirsten and Kallis, who were both well set, and in tandem with Martin Bicknell took England to a win that had looked a long way away when SA were 362/4 at the end of day 1. A genuinely nice bloke, to whom I wish a happy and peaceful retirement.

  • Scott on October 7, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    @zoot364 - I have always thought that this ball got completely overshadowed by the frenzied happenings before and after in the Edgbaston test, especially the morning session on day 4 when Aus got so close to England. It really was a magnificent slower ball, perfect line and length, no discernible change of pace in delivery action, and from my recollection, Harmison was not known for his slower ball. Not only that but it seamed away like a big leg cutter, beating Clarke's push towards mid on.

    In the context of the game, it was a huge moment. Clarke was reasonably well set and had he returned the next morning accompanied by Warne, Australia may well have won.

    I know this does not make him a great bowler, but it was certainly a moment in time that is imprinted on my memory and will be forever, and for that reason, Harmison will always evoke fond memories for me.

  • sam on October 7, 2013, 13:17 GMT

    Oh ,my fave. memories of Harmy . Def few from Ashes'05 where apart from Lee ,was the 2nd fastest bowler in series where fast bowlers from both sides made compelling viewing .But my fav. has to be the massive -must been 150 mtrs! - 6 Brett Lee hit of a Harmy ball @ 90 odd mph that sailed well over Leeds stadium . Was unbelievable -fast man vs fast ,both giving their all and guess who 1 again ? -Brett Lee ! A 'special' mention to 'ball of the century' - this century,not the last ! Can say 2nd 1 after the 1 by Warnie. It set the famous 07'-08' Ashes vs the mighty Aussies on the way in an unforgettable fashion.