Bridgetown, Barbados: Named the Man of the Match in a Test he did not think he would play in, Ryan Harris is now intent on keeping his spot for as long as his problematic body will allow. Harris arrived in the West Indies adamant that James Pattinson was ahead of him in the fast bowling queue, but the selectors' decision to choose the older man was endorsed handsomely by his efforts in Bridgetown.
Harris took two wickets in the first innings and three in the second, none more important than the swift dismissal of Shivnarine Chanderpaul by a delivery angling in from round the wicket, then moving away just enough to take the edge. These spells bookended Harris' highest score in Tests, a committed 68 not out that allowed Michael Clarke the luxury of making a timely declaration on the fourth afternoon to set-up Australia's eventual victory.
If any member of the Australian attack is likely to be rested or used carefully due to a variety of physical ailments it is Harris, but he is adamant about staying in the XI for the remainder of this series and those beyond. "I've got a perfect fitness base now," Harris said. "I've played four games back in Australia, bowled plenty of overs and got through about another 35, 36 here. Touch wood, I could fall over tomorrow and do something. I feel as if I'm going really well, feel strong and I want to be a part of this team and squad for as long as I can.
"That was one of the hardest Test matches I've played in my short career. Those conditions, bowling on that wicket was quite tough and getting to the ground this morning I was quite sore to be honest and tired. Getting through a few overs - the first couple weren't great but I felt as though I came back OK but to win a game like that after they batted for two days it's pretty amazing."
Though he is now a known and respected quantity as a Test match bowler, Harris had never previously shown an international opponent just how well he could bat before his alliances with Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Lyon. It was a similar story in his earlier years of first-class cricket with South Australia, early dismissals not doing justice to a neat technique. Clarke gave Harris a promotion to No. 8 in the second innings in recognition of his form, and Harris would like to stay there.
"We wanted to get into a position where we could win the game," Harris said. "I was lucky enough to be out there and spend some time in the middle. I've been well overdue for some runs at this level, I've had a couple of opportunities. I feel myself getting better. I spent, as Michael said, plenty of time in the nets, it was just good to be able to contribute with the bat when it was needed.
"The partnerships that I had with Hilf and Lyon and even [Matthew] Wade at one stage, we had a goal of about 150 runs for the tail and we got 151. That was what we were focused on. Whether I made 40 of them, 10 of them or 100 it didn't matter as long as we got that goal. "We knew if we got that we'd be in a strong position. I thought the declaration where we were weighing it up out there, how many overs we wanted and Michael took the initiative and pulled us off which I thought was good. That last over, I couldn't score so we were probably wasting time. It shows now we needed that bit of time and we had that because of that declaration."
Clarke and the rest of the team are unabashed in their fondness for Harris, his honesty and unrelenting effort. Having now contributed to numerous Test match wins for Australia, Harris wants to keep doing so for as long as he possibly can.
"I think Michael and the coaching staff have known what I can do, it's probably doing it more and more consistently. I think that's my goal and that's what I hope to do over the next Test in the next year or two, however long it is.," he said. "That's my goal and I want to be a part of this set-up and this squad for as long as I can.
"Touch wood my body holds up. Being a part of this squad and especially on days like today and in that dressing-room is something you never want to give up. All I'm trying to do is consistently take wickets or bowl to the plans we need to bowl to and if I keep doing that I'm doing my job."