Steve-Harmison

Stephen James Harmison, born October 23, 1978, is a former English pace bowler who played 63 Tests, 58 ODIs, and 2 T20Is in the 2000s and took over 300 international wickets. On his 37th birthday, Shiamak Unwalla looks at 8 interesting things to know about the Ashes winner who later turned a football manager.

1.  Three brothers: The Harmison family can proudly boast of having three cricketers in the same generation. Steve is the oldest brother and by far the most renowned, while James is the middle brother and also the least accomplished, and Ben is the youngest and currently plays First-Class cricket for Kent.

2.  Ashes 2005 Hero: Harmison was arguably the leader of England’s iconic Ashes 2005 bowling attack also comprising Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard, and (to a lesser degree) Ashley Giles. Harmison kicked off the 2005 Ashes by hitting Justin Langer in the head and taking five wickets in the first innings at Lord’s. However, it was in the second Test at Edgbaston that he entered Ashes folklore. With Brett Lee and Michael Kasprowicz in the middle, Australia came to within three runs of a famous win before Harmison sent down a short ball that took Kasprowicz’s edge through to wicketkeeper Geriant Jones to award England a phenomenal win.

3.  “Harmy’s shocking first ball:” As good as Harmison was in 2005, the next time he played an Ashes series, in 2006-07, he got England off to a terrible start. Bowling the first ball of the series at The Gabba, Harmison bowled a ball that was so wide it went to Andrew Flintoff at second slip. He ended up going for 123 in 30 overs as Australia piled on 602 and won by 277 runs.

4.  Jamaican blitz: Harmison’s career reached a different plane in the West Indies tour of 2004. The first Test at Kingston saw West Indies score 311 in the first innings, with Harmison taking a decent 2 for 61. England responded with 339.Trailing by 28, West Indies were then absolutely slain by Harmison, who bowled a mind-numbing spell of 12.3-8-12-7 to clean out the men from the Caribbean for 47.

5.  Pocketful of injuries: In a bizarre twist (pardon the pun) Harmison ended up dislocating his shoulder after his hand got caught in his pocket while bowling in a domestic match in 1998-99.

6.  Hattrick hero: Harmison took an ODI hattrick against India at Trent Bridge in 2004. India batted first and were in a tight spot at 170 for 7 when Harmison came on to bowl his ninth over. He had Mohammad Kaif out caught behind for a hard-fought 50, and then got L Balaji and Ashish Nehra off conescutive balls to finish with 3 for 41.

7.  Managing his club: As if being a reputed Test cricketer was not enough, Harmison ended up managing his home football club Colliers Ashington AFC. Under his mentorship, the team won seven matches on the trot. Harmison told BBC, “If someone had told me in 2005 that I’d be manager of Ashington in the FA Cup 10 years later I wouldn’t have laughed at them…It’s my hometown club. I played for them before I became a professional cricketer. My dad, Jimmy, played for them, and my brother, James, plays for them now…Even when I was playing cricket for England I used to train with Ashington to help build up my fitness ahead of tours to Australia, West Indies and South Africa. I love being a football manager. It’s a great challenge and I like being around non-league players for their enthusiasm. I can’t wait for the FA Cup.”

8.  Family man: Harmison is a family man through and through. By the age of 26 he was married with kids, and found it hard to go on long tours without his beloved family. He told independent.co.uk, “I cannot see myself playing for England when I am in my mid-thirties. I have a family. I have kids that need me around and they will dictate the decisions I make on my career. My family have always been 100 per cent behind me and it is they who pick up the pieces when things are not going quite right. My international career will finish when my family needs me to be around a bit more.”

(Shiamak Unwalla is a proud Whovian and all-round geek who also dabbles in cricket writing as a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)