Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Ups and Downs of a Glorious Cricket Career

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Ups and Downs of a Glorious Cricket Career

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

STEPHEN Harmison's brilliant cricket career fizzled out yesterday.

The last four years of it have been a major disappointment.

What the Ashington Express wanted more than anything was for his final season to end with Durham lifting the County Championship. To not play a single first-team game in it was not in the script, however.

Since handing him a four-year contract at the end of his England career, Durham have had very little bang for their buck.

If in hindsight it was a bad decision, it was done for the right reasons.

Harmison repaid them with just 19 First-Class matches and 57 wickets.

Whether or not it was mentally dif-ficult going from constantly playing in front of full houses to spare county crowds, Harmison's body did not cooperate either. Phil Mustard accidentally broke his arm trying to hit a boundary at the Rose Bowl, a couple of ankle injuries were picked up treading on balls. Harmison had wanted to give something back to the county - and still does - but was unable. Durham's intentions were laudable. They wanted to reward Harmison for a career which helped put them on the cricketing map, and show others who stepped up to international level they would be welcomed back and well looked after when that chapter had run its course.

Harmison took a pay cut in return for a contract which ran to the age of nearly 35.

Still the deal was big enough to have important ramifications for Durham. Next year the wage bill will be slashed from PS1.9m to PS1.2m a year, so severe are the county's financial problems. Harmison unwittingly added to them.

It was hardly his fault he accepted their generous offer. Who could blame him for refusing to retire until left with little choice? Rather than remember the player who ended his time with Ashington RCC in the Northumberland League, the North East should celebrate perhaps the greatest outand-out fast bowler of his generation. Plenty had more guile, but in the words of former Durham and England team-mate Paul Collingwood, "Teams were literally frightened of" Harmison. …

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