England v Australia, 4th Investec Test, Durham, 3rd day August 11, 2013

Harris grits his teeth

Ryan Harris has almost made it. Almost got through three consecutive Tests for the first time in his career. And he has done it - or, almost done it - with style. Harris has been Australia's most effective bowler during this Investec Ashes series, having claimed 16 wickets at 21.37, one fewer than Peter Siddle, who has played one more Test. On the third day at Chester-le-Street, Harris was again the most dangerous man in the attack, his speed, accuracy and movement all troubling England.

That the hosts got away slightly through Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen and extended their lead to 202 by stumps was not the fault of Harris, who delivered a searing new-ball spell that accounted for all of England's top three batsmen. The wickets were the main prize for Harris, but the feeling of making through a third consecutive Test - and after a short three-day break, no less - was a major bonus for a man whose body has kept him to 15 Tests in three and a half years.

"I'm a little bit tired after today but I feel good," Harris said. "I've come out of it nice and strong. I feel really confident in my body. I've had a really good build-up. Unlike in the past I've gone from not bowling many overs to bowling lots of overs, whereas this time I've spent plenty of time on the Australian A tour and bowled lots and lots of overs and finished off the first-class season back in Queensland and bowled lots and lots of overs

"Because I've copped a few injuries, I guess you get sore spots here and there and you doubt whether or not it's going to be bad. Even today I had a couple of sore spots when I bowled a few balls but you ... go back and go again and if it doesn't hurt you're all right. If it does you've got a problem. You've always got doubts, but I'm starting to have less and less doubts."

Harris earned his three early wickets in different ways, his superb outswinger clipping the top of Joe Root's off stump, his accurate bouncer tempting Jonathan Trott, who gloved behind, and his wider ball surprisingly drawing Alastair Cook into a flash outside off. His aggression also nearly had the centurion Bell, who fended a sizzling bouncer off his gloves and fell back onto the ground, almost onto his stumps.

"I went around the wicket to try and muck up his feet and the one he hit me, I got it a little bit wide and a little bit full," he said. "So it was always going to be a short one - one of the next two. I got it on the money but it would have been nice if it had of flown to Usman Khawaja at short leg, that would have been better. It was one of those things where you just have to try. Once he gets in, he is hard to get out."

Bell was mostly responsible for putting England back in the driving position, for batting last on this Chester-le-Street surface will not be easy and Australia cannot afford to let the lead stretch much further. But Harris said a pursuit of 250 to 300 would be achievable and the focus had to be on claiming England's remaining five wickets as quickly as possible.

"The wicket's holding together pretty well. It might spin a little bit but the ball's going through nicely. I think it's pretty evenly poised to be honest," he said. "It's hard to say a target. But it is not breaking up as much as we probably thought. It hasn't had as much sun as it could have had. If it had of been sunny of the past three days it might have been different and dried out a little bit more. There a couple that keep low and misbehave but that's going to happen."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Muhammad on August 15, 2013, 11:41 GMT

    Cummins,harris and peter siddle are better bowlers in austrailian side. These are atleast not condition dependent they will try there best. Starc is better old ball bowler but should be groomed with new ball as there is already siddle as first change.

  • John on August 12, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    It's a little bit scary to think of the bowler Harris might have become had he been able to maintain fitness. Easily the best on either side during this series. Australia may be regretting not picking him for game 1 but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Having almost survived 3 consecutive Tests is no guarantee of being able to play 4 or even 5 though. You'd think that Harris will sit out Australia's game against the Lions and then come back refreshed for the last Test as well. Good luck to him.

  • John on August 12, 2013, 0:40 GMT

    Harris has always been a fine bowler, but one who just couldn't stay fit. Today's exhibition was great fast bowling, orthodox early followed by a searing spell of leg theory later. Wonderful, and fearsome stuff.

    However, I'm mystified by all the fuss that has been made by Australian fans over Jackson Bird. He bowls a steady 82-84mph. He has no effort ball or slower ball. He doesn't use the crease. He doesn't get much lift. He rarely swings it and although like any bowler who keeps the seam upright he'll get the odd one to move (like the one that got Cook), the fact that he can't do it regularly suggests that he simply puts it there and hopes. Before he played we were told he was the new Glenn McGrath. He's not in the same universe as McGrath.

    Australia should be looking to Starc, Pattinson, Cummins and Hazlewood for the future. Bird is not it.