(Photo: Getty Images)
By Martin Smith
Simon Harmer had played just three County Championship matches before Essex extended his one-year contract by a further 24 months.
Statistically, the South African off-spinner had just eight Championship wickets to his name at that point. But Essex head coach Chris Silverwood liked what he had seen.
Now, two months on, Essex are reaping the rewards as arguably the ‘find’ of the season has returned multiple-wicket hauls to take them top of Division One.
Silverwood said: “You could see straight away when he joined us for pre-season in Dubai that we’d got a class act on our hands.
“He has found his feet here, he feels comfortable and at home, and that is now coming through in his performances for us, which have been absolutely amazing.”
Harmer, a Kolpak signing, followed his fourteen for 128 against Warwickshire last week by running through Middlesex in the first innings to take five for 77, three of them in a 12-ball spell.
Silverwood said: “I was laid up [ill] last week, but I had the scoresheet next to me and all I could see was ‘Harmer wicket, Harmer wicket’. It cheered me up no end.
“I could imagine everyone sitting here at Chelmsford watching him do that – a top-class spinner plying his trade. It’s exciting and thankfully he’s ours!”
Red ball, white ball, pink ball, Harmer has caused havoc with each.
With his genial amble to the crease, mop of blond hair flapping and ever-present sunglasses, he looks like a latter-day Shane Warne. He is starting to garner the wickets to go with it.
“The pink ball didn’t spin or turn consistently, as I thought it would,” he said, “but there was a lot of bounce and it comes off the bat a lot better.”
Silverwood added: “Apart from the obvious skill, there is that steely edge to him.”
The 28-year-old did not arrive in Essex as a complete unknown: he had after all played five Tests for South Africa in 2015, but turned his back on further international involvement when he realised how far down the pecking order he had fallen.
South Africa’s loss has been Essex’s gain.
Result: Essex (542-3d) beat Middlesex (246 & 262) by an innings and 34 runs