Ryan Harris remembers the feeling of the late afternoon Cape Town sun on his skin as he found the strength to will Australia to a memorable Test series victory. Sitting in Brisbane’s Allan Border Field, his mind takes him to another time and place when his body could bend to his bidding. He misses it so badly that he’d do it all again if given the chance. Harris shares the inside story of the decider in Cape Town.
Australia had an Ashes whitewash in the summer of 2013-14. This was a monumental achievement as the most successful nation in history had lost six straight Tests for just the third time in over a century. The humiliation stung like sweat in the eyes, but it also galvanised the team. England had no idea they would be met with a barrage of fire and brimstone Down Under, and their attempts to cope were woefully inadequate. Australia won the first four Tests of the series in Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Melbourne, respectively, and England lost three of their best players along the way. Redemption was sweet, but it wasn’t complete.
For Ryan Harris and Australia, destiny was tied up with a return to the pinnacle of the world rankings, which meant beating the team that occupied top spot, South Africa. Ryan Harris fondly remembers that period in Australian cricket, saying it was a great group of guys.
A three-match series was level at one-all, and Australia had dominated much of the deciding Test, played at the Newlands ground in Cape Town, at the foot of the spectacular Table Mountain. It was an appropriate setting for a title fight. The South Africans, however, were unbeaten in ten at the venue. They could also lean on a recent history of hanging tough, having endured for a day-and-a-half at Adelaide Oval to save a Test 16 months earlier. It was an unthinkable result that burned the Australians and lingered in the backs of their minds.
Ryan Harris was facing a three-front battle, as he struggled with the toll of twelve Tests in just eight months on his body, which was already battered by his challenging career choice. Despite mastering the physical pain of his chronic knee injury, a new battle emerged and took hold in his mind unexpectedly. It hit him during a match in Port Elizabeth, while he was standing in the outfield of St George’s Park, surrounded by the noisy and enthusiastic crowd. The brass band in the western grandstand played loudly, while the patrons drank cheap beers and cheered, and thousands of school children on a day out shouted and waved. Ryan Harris had only bowled for 13 overs, but he was hammered for 74 runs, which was an unusual experience for him, as South Africa built a second…
Ryan Harris was physically there as he sat alongside the white picket fence that surrounded Brisbane’s Allan Border Field, looking every bit the ex-cricketer, appropriately dressed in coaching costume after another day working with the country’s best young players. He recalled how, on day five of the Cape Town Test, bodies were exhausted to the brink of collapse. Ryan Harris was dealing with three issues at the same time: a persistent knee ailment, a hip flexor problem, and a mental battle that had crept up and embedded itself in his head.
Australia had savored the rare feat of an Ashes whitewash over the 2013-14 summer. It was a hell of a statement at any time, but in the context of what transpired in the months before, it was monumental. The most successful nation in history had lost six straight Tests for just the third time in over a century. The humiliation stung like sweat in the eyes. England had no idea they would be met with a barrage of fire and brimstone Down Under, and their attempts to cope were woefully inadequate. But for Ryan Harris and Australia, the redemption of the Ashes was not complete until they reached the pinnacle of the world rankings, which meant beating South Africa in the series decider at Newlands in Cape Town.
The match was level at one-all, and Australia had dominated much of the deciding Test. However, the South Africans were unbeaten in ten matches at Newlands and had a recent history of hanging tough, having saved a Test at Adelaide Oval 16 months earlier. The pressure was on, and Harris was fighting his own battle on three fronts.
Despite his chronic knee injury and hip flexor problem, Harris had learned to master the physical pain. However, the mental struggle had snuck up on him during the second Test in Port Elizabeth, where he was hammered for 74 runs in just 13 overs. The big brass band in the western grandstand, the patrons imbibing cheap beers, and the thousands of school kids cheering and hollering all added to the overwhelming feeling of pressure.
On the fifth day of the Cape Town Test, bodies were tired to the point of exhaustion. Ryan Harris could feel the weight of the moment and the pressure to perform. He knew that every ball could be the difference between victory and defeat. But as he walked to his mark for his final spell, he found a new level of focus and determination.
Ryan Harris took two wickets in his final spell, including the crucial scalp of AB de Villiers, to help secure Australia’s series victory and return to the top of the world rankings. The feeling of the Cape Town sun on his skin and the roar of the Australian supporters will stay with him forever. Ryan Harris knows that he may never experience anything like that again, but he also knows that he gave everything he had for his country and his teammates on that day in Cape Town.