Stephen Harmison, speaking on the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, explained why he resorted to bowling the famous slower delivery to dismiss Michael Clarke in the 2005 Edgbaston Test, despite having the “worst slower ball in the history of the game.”
Harmison cleaned up Clarke with an absolute peach in the dying stages of the third day of the Test, leaving Australia at 175-8 in their pursuit of 282, a “roller-coaster game” that England narrowly won by two runs.
Calling the pitch the “flattest wicket in the world”, Harmison admitted that he had run out of all other options before going with the slower ball against the well-set Clarke, who had already spent over an hour and a half on the crease for his 56-ball 30.
“That first day, [England made] 407 I think it was in 80 overs, it was just phenomenal. And, to come to the end, you have an extra half an hour before to bat on a Saturday night [on day three]. We get Clarke with a slower ball — there was literally just nothing left [to bowl], it was unbelievable, to be fair, it was just nothing left.
“I had bowled three balls, I think. I had the worst slower ball in the history of the game. [Marcus] Trescothick and [Andrew] Flintoff always said that [at] first slip, and as I was about to bowl it, they were like just slumped their shoulders and go, ‘Ah, no. He’s gonna go again.'”
Coming in to bowl the fourth delivery of his 11th over, Harmison slipped in a dream slower one – the delivery floated on the middle stump line, beat Clarke for lack of pace, and sneaked through his legs to clatter the wickets.
“But this time it worked. We tried early in the over to get Warney [Shane Warne] on strike, couldn’t get him on strike, so I had literally thrown everything at Michael Clarke and nothing had worked,” said Harmison.
“So, I said ‘Why not?’ and it did. He was the only one who has ever not picked that slower ball. One’s not bad. It was an important one.”