When Harmison fulfilled the Test dream

Of all the pioneers of Durham’s emergence as a First-Class county, none had a better view of its first Test match than Stephen Harmison

Steve Harmison in action
Steve Harmison in action
 

Of all the pioneers of Durham’s emergence as a First-Class county, none had a better view of its first Test match than Stephen Harmison.

The then 24-year-old fast bowler was earning his seventh cap against Zimbabwe, the only Durham player on show. “I was representing Durham as well as England, so there was enormous pride,” he recalls.

“Lots of people who’d been instrumental in getting Durham to that point were there, in the boxes or wherever, but I felt I was in the best position of all because I was out there on the field fulfilling their dreams. Not many people can say they’ve played in the very first Test match their home ground ever hosted.”

It was, says the man from Ashington, a big deal.

“We needed Test cricket in the North East,” he says. “That was the next thing to chalk off from the day it started in 1992, to the day we walked into the ground and then our first one-day international. But the main goal was always Test cricket.

“We had to get proper international cricket – in whites, with a red ball – on the map in this area.

Stu Forster/Getty Images England captain Nasser Hussain celebrates with the 2003 trophy
England captain Nasser Hussain celebrates with the 2003 trophy
 

“To have someone from the area in the team must have made it even more special.” With so much hype around the occasion, Harmison could have been forgiven a bit of stage fright.

“It was a massive deal for me, leading into the South Africa series,” he comments. “The team was building towards the 2005 Ashes. That was an important step for us.

“We batted first, and when we bowled I didn’t get the new ball, but I wasn’t worried. The new ball that year was swinging early on. Some years it didn’t.

“Where it didn’t swing in the first 12 or 15 overs, I would be thrown the ball first to bang it in and knock the lacquer off it. But if it was doing a lot early on, it made more sense for someone else to have the first go.

“As soon as we won the toss and batted first my nerves calmed down because we were into the game. Playing at Durham I was never really nervous, although when we lost a few wickets early on I did start to worry the game might go against us and people would say England should never come back here. Thankfully we won quite comfortably and I managed to take four second-innings wickets.”

 

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