FORMER team mates of Steve Harmison share their memories of the Durham and England fast bowler as he launches his benefit year.
“You could tell from the first time you faced him that Harmy had all the raw attributes to go all the way. He was genuinely fast, generated awkward bounce, could swing the ball – and seemed to quite enjoy hitting people.
“All of that was great for the prospects of the England team, but not so great when you were facing him from 22 yards away, knowing that he was equipped with a brand new ball.
“It was the late 1990s and I had been playing for Yorkshire for a few years. We had heard about this tall, skinny lad at Durham with a bit of pace who was going to be playing against us, but it wasn't until we'd faced him for a few overs that we found out just how much pace Harmy had.
“He was very accurate and bowled with venom and pace. In the dressing room, all the talk was that he was going to play for England in a few years time.
“At the time Harmy came through, England didn't really have any pace. Caddick and Cork were there, Goughy was quick, but I'd not see anything like what Harmison brought in terms of bounce and movement away from the right hander.”
“His door on tour was always open and often the room would be full of players just popping in for a chat. It was as if he was the England team's very own 'Dear Deirdre'.
“It was always thought that Rob Key and I helped Steve get through the long tours away. For me, it was the complete opposite. Having a hotel room with the interconnecting door always open, the dart board, the endless supply of sweets, the Early Doors, The Royle Family and Only Fools And Horses DVD collections (I drew the line at the complete series of Lovejoy!) and having someone I could talk to about my problems and insecurities – knowing it would remain between the two of us – was something I will not be able to thank him enough for.”
“There were a number of times where I thought, 'We have the best bowler in the world on our team', which was a lovely feeling because I'd played against Glenn McGrath for so many years, who was such hard work to face – and then suddenly we had Harmy coming through.
“Obviously the Ashes series in 2005 was special for all of us and he was a major part of that, but there were other matches in which his performance really stood out too.”
“Great moments? His 7-12 against the West Indies in Jamaica was incredible. You thought he was going to get a wicket with every ball and got the sense that their batsmen just didn't know where or how to play him.
“And in the Ashes win of 2005, he played a key part in beating what some would argue was the best Australian side ever, and probably the best side to have ever played the game of cricket. We all remember Harmy's celebrations.
“There is a downside to Steve Harmison – his football team. I remember facing him in the nets the day after Sunderland won 2-1 at St James' Park and fearing for my life – he was trying to kill me.”
SIR IAN BOTHAM:
“Once in a generation, English cricket is lucky enough to come up with a fast bowling attack which is the envy of the world. And if the 'Fab Four' reigned all too briefly before it was splintered by injuries, England enjoyed a golden era when Steve Harmison, Freddie Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and Simon Jones hunted as a pack.
“At his best, Harmison was up there with Curtly Ambrose and Glenn McGrath as a consistent menace to batsmen. That's how good he was.”