Johannesburg - Simon Harmer walked off the Kingsmead on Friday evening with a sense of vindication.
He had faced plenty of questions and criticism about whether he was good enough for international cricket and while four wickets against Bangladesh on a helpful surface doesn’t prove he is the world’s best spinner, it did go a long way towards indicating to him that he could succeed at the highest level.
Harmer was outstanding, picking up 4/42 in 20 overs, and bowling one of the deliveries of the season to dismiss Bangladesh’s left hander Najmul Shanto.
“I had my reasons for signing Kolpak,” Harmer said after the second day’s play on Friday. “For me it was about opportunity. There’s a lot of talk about the fact that it was lucrative, getting paid in pounds etcetera, but for me it was about opportunity. At the Warriors (his then domestic franchise) I was only playing one format, (in England) I played in all three formats.”
Harmer, now 33 years old, signed his Kolpak deal in 2017, and became an instant hit at Essex helping them to win the County Championship twice, and also the T20 title in 2019.
“Essex gave me the platform as a Kolpak to find myself again. I went there after being dropped, not knowing if I would get another franchise contract. I had a lot of self-doubt and Essex gave me the platform to rediscover what made me successful,” he explained.
“Learning to be a matchwinner for them and getting comfortable with that role and the more I started to do that the more I started to believe. That has added a lot to my game, just knowing I could win games for my team as an orthodox off-spinner.”
With Kolpak contracts made defunct by ‘Brexit,’ Harmer’s path back into international cricket was made easier as long as he played provincially. He signed with the Titans at the start of the season and promptly helped them to the Four-Day Series title finishing that competition as its leading wicket-taker with 44 wickets.
Those performances saw him recalled to the national side - after an absence of six and a half years - for the tour to New Zealand.
“At the end of the day the currency is wickets, performances, winning games of cricket and trophies…I put my blinkers on and that is what I tried to achieve. I definitely think there is a feeling of vindication after coming back,” he said.
“But there are still questions; I’ve taken wickets at county level for Essex, come back taken wickets for the Titans but there are still questions, ‘am I still good enough for international cricket?’ Four wickets doesn’t mean that ‘yes, I am good enough,’ but coming back and putting in a performance just for my own self belief has been good.”
“I don't think I could have scripted a better day. For us to be in the position we are going into day 3, it’s been a very very good day.”