@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
Speaking on the Following On Cricket Podcast, former England fast bowler Steve Harmison recounted a story from his days at Durham, when Shoaib Akhtar bowled a deliberate beamer to Yorkshire No.11 Steve Kirby.
The incident occurred during a 2003 County Championship game at the Riverside Ground in Chester-le-Street. Yorkshire had batted throughout the first day, and Durham’s efforts to polish off the tail the next morning were frustrated by Craig White, who finished unbeaten on 135, and Kirby, who lasted 58 balls and 75 minutes in making 17.
Particularly incensed was Pakistan quick Shoaib, playing for Durham as an overseas pro, who lost his cool in an extreme manner. Harmison picks up the tale:
“There’s losing it in a controlled way, but there’s also losing it a stupid way like how I witnessed Shoaib Akhtar do it against Steve Kirby who was No.11 for Yorkshire. We couldn’t get Steve Kirby out. Craig White got a hundred, played really well, and Steve Kirby’s come in and he’s batted and he’s got stuck in to be fair. And I could see Shoaib losing it and losing it and losing it.
“And all of a sudden Shoaib runs round the wicket and bowls him a beamer. Steve Kirby’s now hit the deck, bounced off the deck, bounced back up. His helmet’s now on sideways, his grille’s going up his face, his gloves have come off, his bat’s been thrown down, and him and Shoaib are coming towards each other in the middle of the crease. And you’ve got this Pakistani and Yorkshireman going head to head and firing off to each other. That’s probably one of the worst I’ve seen anybody lose it.
“I was like, ‘Shoaib, what are you doing?’ And he was like ‘Well I couldn’t get him out’. And I looked at him and said ‘Shoaib, you did that on purpose didn’t you?’ And he just grinned, and I thought, ‘Please tell me, as a fast bowler, I could never ever do that.’”
Harmison’s reaction was a combination of mirth and a realisation that should he ever lose control in the same way, it would be a signal that the end of his career was nigh. “I couldn’t stop laughing,” he said. “I was thinking to myself ‘at no point in my career have I ever been in a position where I’m getting to a point where I’ve thought, as a bowler who can bowl a hundred mile an hour by the way, Shoaib Akhtar, I’m coming around the wicket and I’m going to bowl a beamer to No.11’. And I thought ‘If I ever get to that point, I’ve got to retire.’ It was an absolute shocker.”