The Ashes 2010-11 December 20, 2010

Ryan Harris flies high after injury fears


A week before the Ashes series Ryan Harris didn't expect his body would let him play, but after two brave performances he will start the Boxing Day Test as a vital cog in Australia's suddenly purring attack. Harris will always bowl with pain in his right knee, which has minimal cartilage on the outside of the joint, but he gained the perfect anaesthetic at the WACA with a second-innings haul of 6 for 47.

"It's pretty special," Harris said in Perth. "Leading into the series I was hoping to take part, but obviously with my knee the way it was I wasn't sure if I was going to be a part of any cricket this summer. At the moment it's a great feeling, to level the series and get back to 1-1, and to take six wickets in an Ashes Test. I'm feeling pretty good at the moment."

His knee is now in such decent shape that when he meets his surgeon David Young, who has operated on him a couple of times this year, in Melbourne this week it will be mainly to have a chat. Twice this summer he has had to have fluid taken out of the joint as a result of the constant bone-on-bone collision, but he doesn't think it will be necessary this time.

While the prognosis is good in the short-term, Harris, 31, is unlikely to have a long career because of the severe wear and tear. That won't be a major concern if he leaves the game with a come-from-behind Ashes victory on his resume. If he was 10 years younger he could have a cartilage transplant, but the recovery would take up to 18 months and would end his playing days, so it is not an option.

Whenever Harris has watched previous Boxing Day Tests he has felt shivers down his spine and he is expecting more tingles when the game begins on Sunday. "The thought of it actually gets you nervous," he said. "It's going to be an amazing feeling - if I'm picked. I got a text before from my surgeon and he said: '100,000 people at the MCG, you're going to enjoy it.' He got me thinking that it's going to be a great feeling, especially now with the series 1-1."

Harris and Shane Watson are the most improved Australian players over the past two years, with Harris rising from a capable domestic performer to a damaging international fast bowler. He used to have a bustling run-up but now he sprints his large, strong frame to the wicket, delivering at around 145kph and swinging the ball.

While his knee was too great a risk to figure in Brisbane, he has been the side's most consistent bowler over the past two Tests, which is even more satisfying because he's played only four matches in a baggy green. Harris has a croaky voice and it became coarser after his roaring appeals at the WACA. There was plenty for him to shout about during the second innings.

He claimed four wickets on the final morning, including the lbw of the in-form Ian Bell, as he took his tally for the match to nine, the same as Mitchell Johnson. He also removed Bell in the first innings to follow the wickets of Andrew Strauss and Graeme Swann in a comprehensive display.

Despite achieving such success in the most important match of his career, Harris revealed he wasn't pleased with the way he performed on the final morning. "The feeling I had wasn't great," he said. "The positive out of that is that I've taken six wickets."

The understated Harris is a perfectionist and Ricky Ponting has been working on trying to settle him over the past year. "He is very hard on himself and he never feels like he's bowling well or has bowled a good ball," Ponting said. "My challenge has been to relax him into it and not let his mind get in the way."

Harris agreed that he can get down on himself easily. "Coming here [to Perth] and it having a bit more bounce I was thinking about what I had to do and I was trying to bowl that perfect ball," he said. "The best thing I can do is not think about it and just go out and bowl and do what I do best, which is bash the wicket. They always say that fast bowlers aren't smart blokes so I probably shouldn't think as much as I do."

The Australians are on top after their WACA win changed the complexion of the series. Some of the players celebrated by humming along to U2's Elevation at a concert in Perth hours after singing their victory song for the first time since July, but in the most recent Ashes series the team on a high wasn't guaranteed to stay there.

"We've crushed them pretty well here after being crushed in Adelaide," Harris said. "It's a new Test [in Melbourne]. They'll go away and work pretty hard during the week, but I do think we've got an edge over them a bit going into that big Test."

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mike on December 21, 2010, 19:11 GMT

    Ryan Harris has a nice aggressive approach yes but sadly I wish he did not have the knee condition. One of the most exciting prospects to come out of Oz. As regrds Asif the less said about him the better. Sprag a tongue in cheek comment no doubt but harris is not nor ever could be the class of Asif. Amir more specifically is on a different planet compared to Asif. Says how great he is. The worlds best ever left armer Akram says amir was better than him at his age. I wish the ICC could have either furnished the evidence if they have it by now (4 months after accusing them) and/ or finish the matter either way. If amir is guilty I am sure a life ban would suit him and the others caught in it.

    Regardless fast bowlers roll out of Pakistan with ominous regularity. India could learn a trick. In order to be a number 1 side( in realistic terms not just decimate opponents of flat dustbowls at home), you need a bowling attack that can regularly take 20 wickets . Not let teams bat at 4.65 rr.

  • Bunty on December 21, 2010, 14:04 GMT

    Important line from Harris is that fast bowlers are not smart brains. Otherwise how can you explain a guy who might look at the prospect of going to wheelchair at an early age still relishes the propsect of bowling 145+ ? I see it the other way he is proud and courageous. Coming to Indian bowlers they start out touching 145+ but then their "smart" brain kicks in which tells them why pound your knees and get burnt out in 3-4 years when there is easy money to be made? until the Indian fans and board gets demanding from these players the mindset will be like that. Bowl enough to get a paycheck thats it. Thats not professional or proud cricketers.

  • Bryn on December 21, 2010, 12:34 GMT

    man we have soooo many elite fast bowlers but not enough spinners i reckon because that is the case just go with the four quicks all the time. love harris he is awesome i bet the poms would kill anderson to have ryan harris. keep it up champion.

  • Dummy4 on December 21, 2010, 9:34 GMT

    @ Steve Spragg He missed his award this year ,due to the envelope .... but he is the most wicket taker in the test cricket this year. Do you have any bowler like him ???

  • vivek on December 21, 2010, 5:28 GMT

    Australians are producing dozens of quality fast bowlers in every ashes, there is no such fast bowler in INDIA who could constantly hit that 145 KM mark in a test match or ODI. Pity on INDIA. What is the MRF Pace foundation for? just to produce fast bowlers who can't even touch 130 km constantly ?! "never say the excuse of no pitch like perth in INDIA etc, prepare one such pitch!! dont you have money??" INDIA Wake up , learn from Aussies and SouthAfricas. we need 3 quality fast bowlers strongly built and should touch that 145km 90% of the times.... and we can rule the cricketing world for a decade like WI.


  • Alan on December 21, 2010, 1:09 GMT

    @nisal2996 - Clearly you do not watch much Cricket. Brad Hodge retired from 4/5 Day Cricket, Chris Rogers is close to 50 years old (slight exaguration but you get the point), Phil Jaques is the same and Callum Ferguson averages 35 despite playing at Adelaide OVal every second game which is a road. The only thing out of your post I agree with is that Khawaja needs to play and soon as he is a class act

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2010, 23:46 GMT that before or after you have slipped him an envelope ?

  • Ant on December 20, 2010, 19:31 GMT

    shame about Harris' knee but so glad aust has picked him in the last few tests...much derved success...

    also i thought siddle steamed in and bowled quick even though he doesn't get a lot of kudos too (no one can complain he doesn't give it his all)'s the aust batting that worries me more going into melb...

  • Dummy4 on December 20, 2010, 18:32 GMT

    @Something_Witty He is not more dangerous than Mohummad Asif.....

  • Ian on December 20, 2010, 14:03 GMT

    He's a quality bowler, probably more than some of the others around. It's great for Oz how they can just pluck a fast bowler from their local ring when they have bowling issues, while England have to rely on their ffm, rmf, and rm to do most of the work. Even if the career is short (and he'll be unlikely to feature in the 200+ test wickets group), he has it in him to make it memorable and meaningful. Here's hoping in two or three years he'll have far more to cheer about than others who may have played ten.

  • No featured comments at the moment.