Essex’s Harmer hoping for more pink ball success against Somerset
PUBLISHED: 09:00 25 June 2018
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Essex’s initial experience of day-night Championship cricket will always be remembered as Harmy’s Match.
The image is still fresh of Simon Harmer wheeling away in the gloom of a mid-summer mid-evening a year ago after taking his 14th wicket of the match with only a handful of balls remaining.
Harmer was quickly submerged in the congratulations of his team-mates and walked off holding aloft the pink ball used for the first time in the Specsavers County Championship.
He had career-best figures of 9-95 and 14-172 in the match, but more importantly had given Essex the growing belief that they could indeed go on and land their first title in quarter of a century.
The moment of triumph was captured in an iconic photograph that features prominently on Harmer’s Twitter account, though you won’t find a framed version on the walls of the 29-year-old off-spinner’s home just outside Chelmsford.
“If you walk into my house you’ll never see a cricket photo of me,” he says. “I try and keep my cricket life and my personal life very separate.
“I don’t care too much for personal milestones; I don’t check how many wickets I’ve taken [72 in the Championship last season, 27 so far this]. I just want to be trying to put in performances that win us games – and if I’m doing that the rest will take care of itself. My focus is solely on trying to put in match-winning performances.”
The match-winning performance under the lights against Middlesex still shines bright in his mind’s eye, though.
“I remember them trying to hit me out of the attack in the first innings, and giving away silly wickets,” he adds.
“And then in the second innings I think they were caught between looking to be positive and looking to play me out. The wicket was turning and they lost a lot of wickets not offering shots.
“I remember it being five or six minutes left in the day, with Steve Finn on strike. He shouldered arms to another one that was going to hit the wicket. I do remember walking off the field at the end of what was obviously a good day for us, having beaten the reigning champions.
“It was a good feeling to win a game for Essex; any bowler will take great satisfaction in winning a game for their team. But I think there were a lot more milestones than mine in that game.”
Harmer will have a pink ball in his hand again over the next four days as Essex host Somerset in this summer’s day-night game (2pm start), attempting to bounce back after a lacklustre performance against Nottinghamshire in the game that ended in heavy defeat on Saturday.
This time he will be bowling with a Kookaburra pink rather than that of rival manufacturers Duke used in 2017 as the ECB experiment to find the best version. Reports, though, on how the Kookaburra performed in day-night matches played last week are not promising. The pronounced seam apparently disappears after the 40-over mark, the ball peels and cracks and quickly becomes soft. One player said it was “like bowling with a tennis ball”.
Harmer played with a red Kookaburra in the domestic Sunfoil Series in his native South Africa during the winter, where he finished top wicket-taker. He is not surprised.
“It sounds like exactly what happens to the ball out there. So I’m used to it,” he says.
“It doesn’t move as much as the Duke ball. But for me as long as it turns, and as long as it bounces, I’m happy. I think it will be a tougher ask for the seam bowlers, so hopefully I can make a contribution with my spin.”
Harmer will be hoping for a better personal return after he went for 27 in the most expensive over of his first-class career (three sixes, two fours) against Nottinghamshire’s Tom Moores.
He adds philosophically: “You can have good days and you can have not so good days, and Friday was probably not a great day.
“Every ball seemed to be disappearing. I came over the wicket, I came around the wicket. The ball just seemed to be in his slot. I tried to put it in the right area – and it didn’t really work.”