In the third part of a new series, JUANDRE JOUBERT identifies off-spinner Simon Harmer as one of the most underrated former Proteas.
Harmer is a wicket-taking machine who never really got a chance to showcase his skills for the South African national team, playing only five Tests.
Harmer debuted for the Warriors in the 2010-11 first-class season against the Cape Cobras, claiming 5-98 in the first innings and 1-53 in the second, to go along with his 46 and 69 runs. He became a regular fixture in the 2011-12 Warriors side, ending the season as leading wicket-taker in his full rookie season with 44 scalps.
Harmer made regular appearances for the South Africa A side and was left to work on other areas of his game. He added lower-order impetus with the bat to his repertoire, with a first-class hundred and several fifties, but still could not break into the national side.
It was only when the South African attitude towards spin flipped that Harmer came into contention again.
Harmer finally made his Proteas debut in the 2015 New Year’s Test and took seven wickets. He toured to Bangladesh in July that year and was included as one of three spinners to play against India in November 2015.
The third Test of the series proved to be the last of his five Tests.
Twenty wickets at at an average of 29.40 wasn’t a bad record for a spin bowler about to be ignored.
In 2017, Harmer decided to sign a Kolpak deal with English county side Essex, saying zero security and opportunity are the reasons why South African players sign Kolpaks.
The move proved fruitful to Harmer as he took 72 wickets at an average of 19.19 to help Essex claim their first Championship title in 25 years.
The following year, he took more first-class wickets than any other bowler in the world. Playing for Essex and the Warriors, he claimed 106 wickets in 24 matches.
Harmer’s hefty haul featured seven five-fors and one match 10-for. He bowled more overs (988.4) than any other bowler in the top 40 of the most first-class wickets taken in 2018.
In the 2019 season, Harmer again showed his class by finishing top of the wicket-taking charts with 83 scalps at an average of 18.28 and a best of 8-98.
The South African also extended his accolades by leading Essex to a Vitality Blast triumph.
Harmer’s career bowling stats: