John Townsend on the Ashes: The one who got away brings venom back to Australian attack

The Aussie Angle: Ryan Harris could have been playing in the series for England

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The Independent Online

Sussex's loss has been Australia's gain. Ryan Harris took just three deliveries at Durham to demonstrate why Australia have been so eager to get him into the Test team.

The burly quick bowler is a game-changer. He pushes 90mph, but makes the ball leap and spit like a dollop of fat on a barbecue plate.

Harris bowls enough balls to test a batsman's technique, but it is the ones that test their health and well-being that put him in the class of the elite.

Jonathan Trott can attest to that. He was snagged by a brute that erupted from a surface that might not have contained any demons, but certainly harboured the odd annoying sprite.

Australia have attacked Trott on and around leg-stump all series. They reasoned that little could stop the right-hander shuffling across his crease to hit through midwicket, but the lateral movement made him vulnerable to deliveries outside his body.

Leg slip has been employed for the past few innings and Harris got him nicking legside at Old Trafford. The dismissal showed the same method as wicketkeeper Brad Haddin took his 23rd catch of the series, but the manner of the strike had a vastly different complexion.

Trott was unbalanced and askew as the ball leapt at him and grazed the fending glove on the way through to Haddin.

He was the third victim in a surging spell in which Harris drew a wafting drive from Alastair Cook and exposed Joe Root's crooked defences.

It is only a few weeks since Root's 180 at Lord's turned the Ashes in England's favour, yet a tally of 80 runs in his other seven innings paints a clearer picture of his current standing.

Harris could have been playing in the series for England if he had taken up an offer from Sussex five years ago.

He was playing for South Australia at the time, but was going nowhere in a state set-up more prominent for its internal bickering and mediocre on-field performances.

He had England eligibility via a father born in Leicester, which made him seriously consider shifting countries.

Harris explained his dilemma during the second Test when he revealed how close he came to a change of country and that only England's need for him to sign an oath of allegiance made him stay in Australia.

"It was a messy situation," he said. "I had contemplated coming over here, but then I had a very good offer from Queensland and thought I might have one last crack to play for Australia."

Harris is the type of full- chested and versatile cricketer that the national selector, John Inverarity, and coach, Darren Lehmann, appreciate.

He thumps the ball when batting and thumps the pitch harder when he bowls.

Lehmann has long been an admirer, who saw at first hand how destructive the paceman could be.

The pair played seven seasons together at South Australia and Lehmann watched as Harris completed a metamorphosis from medium-pacer to a genuine quick bowler.

Countless hours in the gym and a run-up that changed from a stroll to a charge enabled Harris to step it up a gear in little more than a year.

A West Australian line-up packed with Test batsmen tasted his new-born fury in Adelaide one evening when he dispatched Justin Langer, Shaun Marsh and Marcus North in a superb burst.

Harris left for Queensland after rejecting the Sussex offer and it was not long before he rejoined forces with Lehmann, who was appointed to coach the state.

Two years in their colours were enough to prompt an elevation to the Test team and while injury and concerns over his durability in his thirties have restricted him to 15 Tests, there is no question he makes opposition batsmen squirm. Just ask Jonathan Trott.

John Townsend is Cricket Writer for 'The West Australian'

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