Ashes 2013: Ryan Harris has become Australia’s main man for home series

The Aussie Angle: Big man has just one more box to tick: an Ashes series win

Australia will spend the next three months trusting that Ryan Harris remains at peak fitness as they seek what they have termed “payback” in the return Ashes series.

No player is more important for Australia than the reborn 33-year-old who, at an age when many quicks are seeking superannuation in the Twenty20 leagues or easing their aching bones into commentary boxes and coaching gigs, will spearhead an assault on the Ashes.

Or so Australia hope after Harris reaffirmed his rare and irreplaceable value at The Kia Oval yesterday. Bowling with the extreme hostility that has marked his effort all series, the bustling quick made the first strike as England relished batting on a mostly sun-baked day.

Alastair Cook was the victim, edging behind after being drawn into an errant stroke through the bowler’s classic three-card trick – in-ducker, in-ducker, away-slanter.

While Australia’s batting line-up is falling into place with Ashes centuries from four of their preferred top order and David Warner virtually guaranteed a start, Harris is emerging as the key pace-bowling figure in the home campaign. The loss of James Pattinson, Jackson Bird and Pat Cummins to back injuries has eroded Australia’s depth and underlined the importance of having a bowler capable of turning a match.

There are few other options within Australian ranks. Mitchell Starc was unable to supply the consistency that he complained had been denied him through a lack of selection continuity. He can swing but only too rarely does he sting.

The third member of the pace attack here, Peter Siddle, is a workhorse but one whose impact invariably diminishes over a long series. James Faulkner made his debut as a seam-bowling all-rounder but was only given a handful of overs and offered little to suggest his career would extend beyond Simon Kerrigan’s.

Mitchell Johnson is being warehoused with a likely expiry date coinciding with the end of the Perth Test in December, while his Western Australia team-mate Nathan Coulter-Nile is a likely prospect and one or two others are emerging in domestic cricket. But no other paceman has the combination of pace, pride and power that Harris brings to the team.

Cook was Harris’s 21st victim of the series, a tally achieved at the superb average of 19, as he equalled England spearhead James Anderson’s return but at 10 runs a wicket cheaper.

Peter Siddle's impact invariably diminishes over a long series Peter Siddle's impact invariably diminishes over a long series (AFP)
Brad Haddin claimed the catch to have his 26th dismissal of the series. He needs just three more to break Rod Marsh’s series record of 28, achieved in the Ashes in 1982-83. Marsh is one of the Australian selectors who recalled Haddin to the team this series and was eager for the veteran to pass his 20-year mark.

Normally a dour individual not much given to public praise, Marsh had a slightly surprising pre-match view on the record awaiting Haddin. “I hope he breaks it,” Marsh said. “I hope he breaks it by 17.”

Yet it is far more likely that Marsh’s greatest hope surrounds the future of the oldest bowler on the national radar. Only nine Australian pacemen have taken more wickets than Harris once they had turned 30. Stuart Clark, who was 10 days older than Harris when he made his debut seven years ago, was the only other one to start his career while in his fourth decade.

Yet there is nothing to say that a  34-year-old, which Harris will be when the first ball is bowled at The Gabba in November, cannot have a say with a shiny new cherry.

Glenn McGrath claimed more than a century of wickets beyond 34 while Dennis Lillee, Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller inflicted plenty of bruises and broke a few stumps as senior citizens raging against the dying of the light.

Harris established a first when he stepped on to The Oval on Wednesday to start a fourth consecutive Test for the first time in his career. And he is about to achieve his tour goal by returning home with the rest of his Test team-mates rather than be on an early plane due to yet another injury.

Fit and firing for longer than at any stage in his career, the bullocking big man has just one more box to tick – leading Australia to victory in an Ashes series.

Australia could win the Ashes with Harris in the team; it is not likely they would without him.

How’s stat? Day three in numbers

1,500 Both England captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell reached 1,500 Test runs against Australia

10 Chris Woakes became the first England player since 2003 to hit the first Test ball he faced for four

3 Kevin Pietersen hit his third-slowest Test fifty – off 127 balls

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Dwight Gayle (left) celebrates making it 1-1 with Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak
premier leagueReds falter to humbling defeat
Sport
Harry Kane
premier leagueLive minute-by-minute coverage
News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
News
peopleFormer civil rights activist who was jailed for smoking crack cocaine has died aged 78
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin