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Ken Borland

Harmer has become a systematic winner of matches

Posted on March 07, 2022 by Ken

Perhaps the biggest change in the Simon Harmer who last played for South Africa in 2015 and the one who is now back in the Test squad in New Zealand is how the off-spinner has become a systematic winner of matches, mostly for Essex but now also for the Northerns Titans in the limited time he has spent with them.

Harmer has collected more first-class wickets than anyone else in the world over the last five years and he has taken 10 wickets in a match seven times in 64 matches for Essex, with 23 five-wicket hauls.

The 32-year-old has already taken 35 wickets in six matches for Northerns, playing key roles in their wins at Newlands (10 wickets) and in Bloemfontein (8 wickets).

“There’s been that perception that off-spinners in general are there to stop the game, go for two runs an over,” Harmer told The Citizen on Tuesday, “but that has shifted to being a wicket-taking option, someone able to win games.

“I have also changed and I now have the realisation that I can win games, I’m able to really influence the outcome. That has been a big change for me over the last few years.

“I’ve relished winning games for Essex and hopefully now even more for the Titans, winning games for them in the second innings in South African conditions.

“At the start of the season, conditions were not conducive to spin so my role was to hold up an end, stop the game, give the team control at one end while the seamers rotate,” Harmer said.

It is very apparent that a major part of Harmer’s development into being one of the world’s best off-spinners has simply been the amount of cricket he has played. The Pretoria-born star has thrived on playing back-to-back seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres. He was a bit more than a budding off-spinner when he signed as a Kolpak player in English county cricket, but he is now certainly in full bloom as a master of his craft.

“Playing back-to-back seasons has really helped me to evolve and develop much quicker,” Harmer said. “And it’s not just the number of games but also the different conditions you experience.

“In England the weather is different, you play with a Dukes ball and there are different pitches. So you learn a lot and you have to do it quickly. You learn about different grips, strategies and which variations work.

“I’ve learnt along the way to sum up what will work very early in a spell and you also need to be able to change things if they are not working, and still be accurate and consistent,” Harmer said.

Keshav Maharaj is almost exactly a year younger than him, having celebrated his 32nd birthday on Monday, while Harmer turns 33 on Thursday, and their experience and adaptability makes one feel the Proteas have their Test spin-bowling bases well covered.

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