Harry the Winner?

So many ‘moments’ are lost in the course of a Test match, moments which shape outcomes and decide series. The shorter the game, the more moments there are.

A single over in a Twenty20 match could decide the outcome, and it could be a maiden five overs before the end – virtually nobody will remember it once the outcome has been decided.

Very, very occasionally in Test cricket the ‘key moment’ will be an over, or a shot, but is far more likely to be a 20 or 30 minute period of play or even an hour. After all, 60 minutes in the course of five days can justifiably be referred to as a ‘moment’.

Englishmen rightly celebrated Andrew Flintoff’s magnificent final hour spell of bowling at the end of day two of the Edgbaston Test. His battle with Jacques Kallis was epic – amongst the most compelling individual duals in the last decade. Brilliant.

And it may, as Englishmen hope and pray, prove to be a turning point in both the Test match and the series. But if it doesn’t, and South Africa prevail and win both the Test and the series at Edgbaston, then it would be remiss of anybody to forget the contribution of Paul Harris. The batsmen.

“He’s not very conventional,” mused David Lloyd on television, “he doesn’t move forward or backwards. He shuffles around the crease and kicks it to fine leg!”

Harris scored 19 runs off his bat but another 14 off his pads. The record number of leg byes in a Test innings is 31 – South Africa, thanks largely to Harris, had already accrued 27 by the close of play on the second day.

Geoffrey Boycott has delighted in taking the piss out of Kommetjie’s most famous cricketer throughout the series: “He can’t bowl for toffee. He’s rubbish. My daughter could hit him for six,” are just a sample of the great man’s observations.

But Boycott, like many legends, doesn’t bother himself with research. The fact that Harris took 12 wickets at 20.6 in two Tests against Pakistan last year is of no interest or concern to the great man. Harris is just ‘roobish’.

Whatever.

But when he obdurately preserved his wicket for over an hour and a half at the beginning of the second day of the Test, Boycott and many of his colleagues – understandably and rightly – concentrated their attention on the fallibility of the bowling attack.

They hadn’t seen, or probably even heard about the heroic innings Harris played to make the Lahore Test match safe in October last year to ensure the series win in Pakistan.

Harris, like most orthodox finger spinners, has a crap and unglamorous job. 90% of the time he is merely ‘keeping an end tight’. But he is uncomplaining.

“Someone has to do it, and I’m glad it’s me!” he said before the series began.

“If I’m lucky enough to play a few more years of international cricket, and if I ever lose the smile from my face, then you have my permission to write about it and give me a wake-up call. I waited so long to play at this level, and I never stopped believing that the dream would come true, even when I signed the Kolpak contract with Warwickshire. It’s no wonder there’s a smile on my face,” Harris says.

If Flintoff’s magnificent exertions help England level the series, then it would be only too right that Harris’ bloody-minded determination with the bat be confined to the ‘so what’ basket.

But should South Africa win, the anger, frustration and leg byes that he produced should not be forgotten because they were enormous at the time. And will remain enormous forever, even if unrecognised. If the Proteas win!

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