Well done on a great career @Harmy611 .. Absolute pleasure to Captain...— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) October 6, 2013
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.