Injury forces Ryan Harris to retire
Australia fast bowler Ryan Harris' battered right knee has finally given out on him, ending his days in the baggy green less than a week before the first Test of the Investec Ashes, which he had hoped would be the capstone on his international career.
In a grievous blow to Australia's plans for their attempt to defeat England on their home soil for the first time since 2001, two sets of scans during the tour match against Essex confirmed that Harris would be unable to get himself right in time to take part in this series.
As a result, he has decided to retire from the game, having set this tour as the final frontier after being ruled out of last summer's World Cup campaign in order to give himself the best chance to play against England. Harris' final international match was the Sydney Test against India in January.
"Given the news I received yesterday, and after talking it over with my family, I know now is the right is the time to step away from cricket," Harris said. "I'm pretty lucky, I have had a wonderful career and nothing made me prouder than pulling on the baggy green.
"I played 27 more Tests than I ever thought I would and I have relished every single moment of them. I couldn't have played with a better bunch of blokes and walking away from the team and our support staff is probably the hardest thing to stomach right now. This is a very special team and I know they will do Australia proud in this Ashes series. I know I will certainly be watching every ball.
"I am lucky enough to have a wonderful family who have supported me through the ups and downs of my career and I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life with them and spending time with my new son Carter. Whatever is next for me, and I don't know what that is right now, I know it will still involve cricket as that is what I love and I want to be able to give back to the game that has given me so much."
Cricket Australia has named Pat Cummins as Harris' replacement on tour. Cummins was to take part in the Australia A tour of India but will now fly from Sydney to join the Australians ahead of the Cardiff Test. Harris will not fly home immediately but remain with the team as a source of advice to the younger bowlers.
Harris was a late starter to international cricket, making his Test debut against New Zealand in 2010 after nearly a decade in domestic ranks. However his combination of bustling pace, swing and seam, plus an indomitable spirit that allowed him to shrug of a succession of major injuries, made him one of the most effective Australian pace bowlers of all time.
He played pivotal roles in numerous Test series, notably Sri Lanka in 2011, before proving himself the outstanding bowler on either side during the dual Ashes series in 2013-14. Harris' 46 wickets across nine Tests - he missed the first match in Trent Bridge - allowed him to experience victory over England after taking part in the 3-1 defeat at home during 2010-11.
Perhaps his finest moment of all was reserved for South Africa, when Harris defied the pain of loose cartilage floating around his right knee, sometimes pressing visibly against his skin, to rip out the last two wickets and secure a memorable series victory in March 2014. The coach Darren Lehmann, a former state team-mate and longtime mentor of Harris, described him as "one of the most talented players I have ever seen."
"Ryan always gave it his all for his country and he epitomises everything the baggy green stands for," Lehmann said. "His never-say-die attitude was his signature as he left absolutely nothing on the field each time he played and I think that is something for which he should be incredibly proud.
"His beautiful wife Cherie and his new son Carter, his dad Jim, his late mum Gai and his brother Gavin will be so proud of him and what he has achieved and the legacy he leaves behind. The team and I are certainly very proud of everything he has achieved on and off the field and we wish him all the best in whatever he decides to do next."
After the South Africa series, Harris had undergone extensive knee clean-out surgery, and worked assiduously to return to fitness for the Border-Gavaskar Tests against India. While still bowling well, he showed signs of losing some of his earlier zip, and CA elected not to consider him for the World Cup to try to replicate his careful preparation for the 2013 Ashes series, when he returned slowly to the game after shoulder surgery.
As recently as last week in Canterbury, Harris said he was trying to adjust to the pain he inevitably faced when landing on his right knee. However he was even less mobile than usual following the Kent match, leading to the scans that confirmed his inability to play in this series. Harris has often said he knew he only had a certain number of balls left in his body. Unfortunately for him and Australia, it was fewer than either had hoped for.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig