Essex newcomer Harmer hoping to have his turn at Somerset
PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 April 2017
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South African spinner excited by trip to Taunton
As far away as Port Elizabeth and East London, the South African city, not Leytonstone, they know about Taunton’s reputation as a spinner’s paradise.
And Simon Harmer, captain of Warriors back home, and currently spending his summer with Essex, will discover the veracity of that reputation over the next four days.
It is no secret that Somerset play to their strengths by preparing wickets that suit slow left-armer Jack Leach and precocious off-spinner Dom Bess. Leach took 46 of his 65 Specsavers County Championship wickets last season at Taunton, the vast majority in the second half of the campaign, while 19-year-old Bess only played two matches, both at home, and claimed 13 victims at an average of 10.46.
Essex, on the other hand, bowled just 154.4 overs of ‘non-seam’ in their promotion year and plainly required the services of a front-line spinner in Division One, if only to mix things up.
Enter the one-time Proteas’ offie Harmer, who said: “English conditions traditionally aid seamers a lot more than they do spinners, so teams look to pack their teams with seamers as opposed to having a specialist spinner.
“They’d rather make do with a part-time spinner and I think it is vital in four-day cricket that you have a specialist spinner.”
Essex start their Championship match against Somerset today, and Harmer, 28, added: “There’s been a lot of talk about the Taunton wicket and how much it turns. But it is quite early in the season so I’m not sure how much turn there is going to be.
“It will certainly be exciting to see what turning wickets in England are going to be like.
“There is a lot more carry in the wickets in South Africa: they are a lot quicker than they are here. The wickets here are a little bit slower, especially this time of year. Obviously the ball swings a hell of a lot more than it does back home.
“Somerset are looking to play a different brand of cricket, so it will be interesting to see if they go about their business the same way they did last season.”
Harmer was pleasantly surprised by the Chelmsford wicket when he made his Championship debut in the draw with Lancashire.
“From what I was told, Chelmsford doesn’t spin; if Chelmsford doesn’t spin and the wicket played the way it did – I know it was quite dry leading up to the game – then it’s quite exciting,” he said.
“I was very encouraged by the way the wicket deteriorated and how dry it was. But I’m pretty aware that it’s not always going to be like that – we’ve been spoiled by the weather.”
Already his blond, spiky hair, couple of strides to the wicket, shirt flapping outside his trousers, have become familiar. So have the trademark sunglasses. “I find the light in England quite a lot brighter than at home,” he added. “Plus, the batsmen can’t see your eyes; it’s a bit of poker face!”
Harmer may not have made an instant impact with the ball, but he enhanced his tag as an all-rounder by helping Dan Lawrence see out the last 37 minutes to save the game for Essex.
He faced 36 of the 63 balls bowled while he was in at a crucial point when another wicket would have exposed the tail.
“There have been a few previous occasions which haven’t really ended well back home in South Africa when I haven’t had somebody to stick around with,” he added.
“The role was reversed with Dan. He needed someone to stay with him. We spoke about it and I said I was happy enough and comfortable enough to take strike whenever it became available.”
Harmer made five Test appearances, all in 2015, taking 20 wickets, but believes those days are up, adding: “My time with the national side has come and gone. I’d like to set myself up here in England. I think I’ve found the right county, with a good bunch of guys, so I’ll be looking to play out the rest of my days over here.”