South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 5th day

Ryan Harris vows to return

Daniel Brettig in Cape Town

March 5, 2014

Comments: 46 | Text size: A | A

Ryan Harris is congratulated after a wicket, South Africa v Australia, 3rd Test, Cape Town, 4th day, March 4, 2014
Ryan Harris - "If the captain tells you to bowl you need to bowl, especially Test matches like that, that's our job to win Test matches" © Getty Images

If Ryan Harris never bowls again, he will be immortalised as Australia's hero of Newlands, conjurer of the last two wickets on one functioning leg and another months overdue for the surgeon's knife. But he has vowed to return after that extensive knee surgery, expressing his desire to again experience the elation that washed over him and the rest of the touring team as they won the match and the series over South Africa with a mere 27 balls to spare.

By merely being in South Africa, Harris had already delayed his hospital check-in date. He felt increasing discomfort in his knee across a wildly successful Ashes at home, where he was instrumental in the securing of the 5-0 sweep. His difficulties increased across the tour, and were further compounded by a hip ailment so painful that he was unsure if he could even bowl in the second innings.

But Harris has awed his teammates for some time with his ability to fight his way through pain barriers that would rule out any other player, and he did so again in their hour of need in Cape Town. His bowling on the final day went well beyond any expectations, as team management had reckoned him capable of only another 8-10 overs. Harris ended the match in his 25th.

"Yesterday I didn't think I was going to bowl another over to be honest," Harris said. "I had a bit of a niggle in the hip flexor which was quite sore. A bit of painful treatment yesterday and last night got me up and going this morning. Now it's worth it with the win, but it's something I had to get through and got through okay. The doc [Peter Brukner] was dry needling me, I think I had 30-odd mills [of fluid] drained out of my knee yesterday as well which wasn't great. But it's all worth it now. To get through that and come out on top, it's worth all that pain.

"It was ridiculously sore, but a couple of Panadeine Fortes helped, and dulled the pain a bit. If the captain tells you to bowl you need to bowl, especially Test matches like that, that's our job to win Test matches, but when you've got bowlers at the other end like Mitch, if you say no then it would have been embarrassing."

Harris had already gone beyond his limits by defeating AB de Villiers with the second new ball. But his penultimate over in the final session had all the hallmarks of a last failing effort. He had made Dale Steyn play at only two of six balls, and was withdrawn by the captain Michael Clarke. At this point, Harris felt he was finished, but resolved to be willing should Clarke call again. Desperate for a wicket, he did.

"I thought I was done," Harris said. "I wasn't sure, I thought Michael would turn to me and say 'I need you to bowl two or three'. I was hoping he wasn't going to say that because I was feeling a bit sore, but when he turned to me and said 'can you give me three' I wasn't going to say no. All the pain I went through last night and the night before is all worth it now.

"All I know is I was trying to bowl as fast as I could. I didn't even know I'd bowled Steyn until the boys celebrated. Personally it was great to get through it, the pain threshold. To be honest, the knee wasn't much of a factor today it was more the other thing, but as a team it was getting close. I thought we really deserved the win. Mitch and Patto bowled really well, Mitch bowled 30 overs which is really ridiculous for a quick, but to get through and win it was all worth it.

"There was a spell where I think at times I was really struggling to get to the wicket. I was working on different ways to run. I haven't really run with a proper running action because the knee won't let me fully extend my leg. I worked out ways of trying to dull the pain, some balls were really painful and some weren't. I had to keep going and if Michael said to me I had to bowl I had to bowl, simple as that, it's my job."

Now, Harris' job is to get fit again in time for next summer. The coach Darren Lehmann wants to keep him operational until the Ashes in England in 2015, and Harris is adamant that he will push for that goal. Moments like Newlands have provided him with the greatest possible incentive.

"I get back Friday, have a couple of days at home and head down to Melbourne on Monday and have it done Tuesday," he said. "I've got a few bone spurs rubbing on my PCL and ACL so they'll shave a bit of that off, and apparently because they're shaving bone it's going to be quite tender for a bit. It's not exactly a clean-out, it's a bit more than that - hopefully get rid of the bone that's floating around in there which is the one I keep unlocking every now and then.

"It's going to take a bit of time, but I've worked out we've got five and a half months I think before hopefully Zimbabwe if I'm considered for one-day stuff then hopefully Dubai. I've got plenty of time so the first 10 days I'll be feet up and on crutches and then go from there. The good thing is living in Brisbane I've got the NCC with all the facilities there waiting for me, and the physios and everything up there so I've got the best people there looking after me.

"I'm bloody going to enjoy a break, I can tell you that. But knowing that, it's going to take a lot of hard work to get up and going again. I've said all along that long breaks aren't good for me but this is an enforced one and it's something I'm looking forward to. Coming into this series I was a little bit underdone fitness wise, I need a good pre-season to build up some strength. My right quad, which I need to be strong is really small - it needs to be be big and I've got a lot of time to do that now. I want to keep playing here as long as I can - moments like today, there's nothing better."

Clarke, for one, cannot wait for Harris' return. "Ryan is one of a kind, he will run through a brick wall for me and for this team," the grateful captain said. "He seems once he gets on the field the pain is gone, I don't know what he has done to himself, I don't know how bad it is. He just seems to find a way, you ask him to bowl he will bowl, he's got no energy left his body is killing him he will find a way to take a wicket for us.

"As captain you can't ask for more and that's where I am extremely fortunate with this team, no matter what the results are going forward, we will lose a lot of games, lets hope we will win a lot of games as well but I have players in this team who will jump off a bridge for me."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by bored_iam on (March 9, 2014, 13:59 GMT)

Ryan Harris: whataplaya! Best of luck with your surgery. Please get back soon.

Posted by Moppa on (March 8, 2014, 3:34 GMT)

@Hussain Kuruwadwala, yes, but he was also a late bloomer. He started out in South Australia (my home state) as a medium pacer who could bat a bit. I was super-surprised to hear, in his first or second season in Queensland (perhaps 2008?), that he'd become and out and out quick. He smashed his way into the ODI team (set some sort of record for wickets in his early ODIs) and then debuted in Tests in early 2010 (freshly gone 30). I don't think we can criticise the selectors for not picking him earlier. What I am intrigued about though is what changes in action or fitness regime allowed him to make this transformation. I hope he writes a book on pace bowling and his career!

Posted by cricketcricket1987 on (March 7, 2014, 13:08 GMT)

Massive respect for Ryan Harris. As an England fan, I was pleased to see SA toppled by Australia too which can only be good for international cricket, making it more competitive. Can't believe it was only a 3 match series!! Seriously, a 5 match series would be an epic series and a true test of Australia resurgence.

Posted by cricfootyfan on (March 7, 2014, 4:05 GMT)

Ryan, you are an epitome of immense grit, courage and passion to perform for your team. Really hope that we will see more of you. Good luck with your surgery!

Posted by cricfootyfan on (March 7, 2014, 4:04 GMT)

Ryan, you are an epitome of immense grit, courage and passion to perform for your team. Really hope that we will see more of you. Good luck with your surgery!

Posted by LiamFM on (March 6, 2014, 13:11 GMT)

What an inspirational player - my favourite for some time now! I've also marvelled at his skill, nous, discipline, controlled aggression, hulking presence, his heart in adversity and the intimidation factor all this brings. I hope the young Aussie quicks in the wings have watched him and have learned that smarts count as much as speed. For me, an enduring image will be when Dale Steyn and Rhino hugged each other at game's end: the mutual respect between two fast bowlers of the highest quality could not have been clearer. Rhino, if we don't see you again in the baggy green (god forbid) - thanks for the memories. You will have thoroughly deserved the legend confirmed by your final ball in Test cricket.

Posted by JJJake on (March 6, 2014, 11:25 GMT)

Yes South Africa is a very good batting side. however the turn around in this Australian side since boof took over is remarkable. Australian Batsman have scored 17 test centuries in 8 tests. Bowlers have taken 20 wickets 7 times out of the past 8 tests. In this test the SA could not bowl out the Australian batters once, let alone twice.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 10:50 GMT)

good to see harris in full on

Posted by Mervo on (March 6, 2014, 10:38 GMT)

Cricket needs Ryno to come back. he sets and example to all the fast bowlers who complain and go immediately into cotton wool as soon as they feel a twinge. He can swing the ball both ways, a rare thing and as skill full as any leg spinner with a decent wrongun or an offie with a legal doosra. He is one for the ages. His average and wickets per test are up there with the best.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (March 6, 2014, 10:30 GMT)

In one corner we have Ryan Harris. In the other, one million miles away, we have Shaun Tait. Polar opposites.

Posted by derrida_derider on (March 6, 2014, 9:59 GMT)

This was a really high standard Test series. I agree with disco_bob - SA were a class act and fought to the death against what is now surely the best bowling attack in the world (I think the saffers can probably still claim to be the best batting side). Clarke's pre-series boast on that looks right on the money.

But however gutsy Rhino was (and who can deny that) I don't think we'll see him back in Tests, mainly because Australia currently has tremendous depth in their fast bowling stocks. I expect Pattinson, Starc and/or Coulter-Nile will be simply undroppable by the time Rhino's ready again.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 9:49 GMT)

Feel sorry for Smith but yes harris is a class act though highly under rated by quite a few experts

Posted by himmat on (March 6, 2014, 9:20 GMT)

Well done Aussies....It was good to see those smiling faces of every players back !!

Ryan Harris , hope u have a successful surgery.....!!!

It's time to get the hands on that twenty20 trophy that Australia has not won......hope they can achieve it and cement Australia re-rise from the slump in recent years !!!

Australia 2nd in Test Ranking......amazing achievement.....congratulations boys !!! Next we should be top of ODI's and Twenty20 as swell......

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 8:46 GMT)

Ryan Harris is unfortunate .When he was young in his 20s Aussies had the best bowling attack .Then once McGrath warne retired others were preferred over him. And then his body was his own enemy. Since england I think he has played extremely well and in all matches which is a big achievement for someone with a body like him. His number of wickets are less and so is his average (mind boggling )but I think numbers cannot express his contribution to Aus cricket.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 8:41 GMT)

Hope he comes through the surgery and can play a few more Tests, perhaps even making it here to England next year. One of the finest bowlers in the last half century, his line and length have been so wonderfully controlled, and at such consistently high pace, with just that bit of movement that beats the good player. An absolute classic, just for his bowling. But the sheer character in his playing through injury and pain has been nothing short of wonderful.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 7:30 GMT)

Rhino Harris ' bowls himself to the ground with a dodgy knee awaiting a surgeons Scalpel n less than a week...what a trier as i shed a silent tear soaking up the action last evening.Test Cricket is the spectacle that it is because of tireless bowlers like these who run in , no matter what for his skipper and countrymen. No praise is too high for this indefatigable fighter and one never gets tired of praising this game and the set of feisty players on both sides at Newlands Capetown. Harris always pounds in zealously, no matter , whether at 11 a.m in the morn. or late n the evening, into the wind or whatever...Had he been fitter , LESS PLAGUED BY INJURIES, and played more, who knows what he may have achieved!Still one suspects there is some fight left in the feisty competitor after the rest and rehab, post op.Great trier.Truly inspiring!

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 5:45 GMT)

god bless u rhino, u r true legend get well sooon

Posted by PrasPunter on (March 6, 2014, 4:33 GMT)

I pray the God to bless Rhino with tons of health and many more test matches for Aus !!

Posted by redneck on (March 6, 2014, 4:13 GMT)

@keepingtestcricketreal well said, saca have made some dumb decissions over the years. turning away harris, not wanting boof as coach dispite him being a SA legend! then not even letting dizzy work with the redbacks because of the icl crap!!! and its not like SA have a lot of former champs to call on in the last 20 years, hell we just take on rejects from other states and even countries over our own!!!! and look at them flourish elsewhere with boof being the talk of the town with what he has managed in queensland and now aus and dizzy running the most unwelcoming to outsiders county in england!!! and being accepted by them aswell as doing a good job!!!

Posted by Shaggy076 on (March 6, 2014, 4:03 GMT)

For all his recent injuries a knee scrape appears quite minor. With the fractured ankle, shoulder ops he has got back. I'm confident come Pakistan in the UAE he will be ready to go again.

Posted by disco_bob on (March 6, 2014, 4:03 GMT)

South Africa were worthy foes, the kind of tough opposition that you want to test yourself against. What can you say about this ending with Harris other than it was the stuff of fairytales. It sort of puts Engand's meek capitulation in perspective.

I would not bet against Ryano coming back after surgery.

Posted by Webba84 on (March 6, 2014, 3:35 GMT)

Pretty much everyone comes out of this test looking good for their determination and character but Rhino is a cut above the rest, a true hero and legend. Cant believe he wasnt given MOM award, if I was Warner I would have given it to him myself!

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 3:23 GMT)

Surely not his last test IMO . He has 10-12more tests left in him.Hope he finishes with 150-160odd wickets.Absolute legend!!

Posted by aman15 on (March 6, 2014, 3:21 GMT)

I had lost all hope that the aussies would be able to claim last two wickets and win the series after only five overs remained for the close of play. But boy! Clarke's desperate bowling change did the trick and harris bowled two beauties to claim final two wickets in space of three balls. What a champion bowler and fighter this man is. Truly an inspiration for all.

Posted by cricketsubh on (March 6, 2014, 3:12 GMT)

next target for australia win the series in india and england in 2015 2 big series in 2015 year so they need make plan for that what kind of players they need to win the series in ind,eng i think they need to find haddins replacement i donot think haddin canot play nxt year i think this 2014 year will be his last in test and 2015 world cup his last odi tournament

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 3:11 GMT)

What a player, Ryano! Love the way Australians compete! If nothing else, every country in the world playing Cricket has to admire their work ethic and dedication.

Posted by   on (March 6, 2014, 2:40 GMT)

Ryan Harris you have covered yourself in glory, especially in the last 12 months. You have been an outstanding foil to Johnson all summer and are so deserving of all the accolades coming your way. Get better soon Rhino. You will not easily be replaced.

Posted by Back-Foot-Cringe on (March 6, 2014, 1:50 GMT)

So there really ARE heroes in sport, if heroism is defined as a triumph of the will over the flesh when the body says I'm done.

Only a paceman himself really knows the pummelling taken by the knees, ankles, lower back all within a millisecond during that physiologically unnatural delivery stride. (Bret Lee's left foot was calculated to plant at a momentary force of tonnes.)

Ryano's battling heart is his body's enemy. The scrunch of bone on bone must be an off-putting thing, ball after ball for overs on end.

I remember the show of Peter Siddle's mental & physical exhaustion after taking on a double bowling load & coming up short against Faf's stonewalling bat when SA gutted out a draining draw in Oz.

Now there's Ryan Harris whispering yes when his knee was shouting no, in order to bowl a few perfect balls on the flattest & deadest of tracks.

And the self-sacrificing effort paid off with a victory against the world's best in their own backyard.

I'll never forget it.

Posted by Moppa on (March 6, 2014, 1:38 GMT)

It's a long way from managed/pre-emptive/'scientific' rotation to what Harris achieved today. Shows how important guts and passion is, as well as having the best guys on the park if humanly possible. Ryan, you are an inspiration - rest up, and can't wait to see you back!

Posted by lillee4PM on (March 6, 2014, 1:04 GMT)

Amazing effort by Harris; he deserved the man of the match in my book. Aus now ranked #2 in the world and the series win (especially this last match) was inspiring to watch. The Proteas are a tough bunch and hats off to them. This was a classic contest that again proves why test cricket between the top nations is the most absorbing format.

Posted by landl47 on (March 6, 2014, 0:35 GMT)

Harris is the kind if player every captain would love to have in his side. If only his physical health had matched his spirit, what a star he would have been.

Despite his optimistic comments, it seems quite likely that this will prove to have been his last test. He's getting older and young, strong bowlers are lining up to take his place. If this was his swan-song, what a way to go out: bowling Australia to victory against the #1 side in their own country.

He'll be long missed and even longer remembered.

Posted by Chris_P on (March 6, 2014, 0:29 GMT)

I've said it before but bears repeating. This guy is a true warrior & should be the poster that all aspiring young quicks should try to emulate, although I doubt there are many who have the size of heart Rhino has. Take a bow Mister..

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 23:43 GMT)

Rhino, if anyone can do it, it's you. Get better soon mate, and hope we see you back in the Baggy Green before next summer.

Posted by CustomKid on (March 5, 2014, 23:28 GMT)

If you ever wanted a man in the trenches with you Ryan Harris would be it. I reckon I could see him going head long at a machine gun nest, bowling hand grenades and rifle under his arm, ready to take down the enemy.

Enjoy the break Rhino and all the best with the recovery. I hope we get another few seasons of your brilliance yet.

Posted by Wefinishthis on (March 5, 2014, 23:13 GMT)

Absolute world class bowler in all forms of the game. Surely it's only Harris and Steyn at the top of the tree now after Philander's disppointing series with the ball. This test series was hyped, but it absolutely lived up to it. World class performances shown by both teams.

Posted by indiaindiyeah on (March 5, 2014, 23:07 GMT)

Those words said by Clarke in the end brought tears to my eyes. I love such a team atmosphere, the unity to stand by each other like an Army unit. Way to go brothers. Salute to Ryan for his will to fight for his team. That's why I love cricket so much. It's not just a game.

Posted by TheBigBoodha on (March 5, 2014, 23:00 GMT)

Wow, what a legend! If he retired today he'd still be one of the best to ever strap on a boot for Australia, IMHO. How he got through 8 tests in a row is anybody's guess. Maybe it was the will of Allah. Maybe it was some of the good stuff Warner is on, eh, RednWhiteArmy?

Posted by xmantra23 on (March 5, 2014, 22:52 GMT)

such an inspiring article. hope ryan harris recovers soon after the surgery and can play for australia again.

Posted by keepingtestcricketreal on (March 5, 2014, 22:18 GMT)

there will be lots of comments about the guts of SA to go so close in this test for a draw. This guy has as much guts as alot of other countries test teams combined, well bowled Ryan the man south australia dropped then let go to Queensland, look at you now.

Posted by AlSmug on (March 5, 2014, 22:05 GMT)

Champion effort from a champion bowler whom is part of the best bowling attack and test team in the world , the icc rankings are wrong and Australia proved this by humiliating England then beating the sth africans on their home soil. Johnson has ruined many a sth african batsmen career, trott, peterson and now smith,happy days for the Australian team and their fans

Posted by   on (March 5, 2014, 21:50 GMT)

An absolute legend this bloke is. Shame he is mid 30's , he's the sort of guy that deserved a 80 test match career which clearly isnt going to happen. I wish Ryan Harris all the best for his operation and recovery.

Posted by thegreatwhiteduck on (March 5, 2014, 21:37 GMT)

What a bowler! What a man! I'm an England fan, but I hope that Harris makes the 2015 Ashes, because he deserves all the Test cricket his body can stand.

Posted by nothingnew on (March 5, 2014, 21:37 GMT)

great preformance From Australia.Harris always giving the good outcomes for his team . Even he is 35 years old,He is a powerfull gun.He is tough guy since he played international cricket (29 years) He is good athletics . The worse part is his body . I believe he will come back with perfect health to attack opposition.

Posted by steve48 on (March 5, 2014, 20:49 GMT)

As i have posted on the match report, so pleased for rhino, what s bowler, what a bloke! Must have been in some pain, but gave Aussies and himself some memories. Hope he recovers to get one last crack at us in the ashes. Yes, I am English! Respect where it is due.

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Daniel BrettigClose
Daniel Brettig Assistant editor Daniel Brettig had been a journalist for eight years when he joined ESPNcricinfo, but his fascination with cricket dates back to the early 1990s, when his dad helped him sneak into the family lounge room to watch the end of day-night World Series matches well past bedtime. Unapologetically passionate about indie music and the South Australian Redbacks, Daniel's chief cricketing achievement was to dismiss Wisden Almanack editor Lawrence Booth in the 2010 Ashes press match in Perth - a rare Australian victory that summer.
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