Steve Harmison returns to first-class action tomorrow determined to regain his position as one of the most feared bowlers in the world.
Harmison’s stock fell dramatically during a miserable Ashes series, which began with that fateful delivery to second slip and barely got any better.
The 28-year-old took just 10 wickets at 61 apiece during the five-Test series and hit such depths of frustration he even began to hate the game.
However, after a couple of months off, away from the sport and out of the spotlight, Harmison was back firing on all cylinders during Durham’s pre-season tour to South Africa.
Tomorrow he lines up alongside fellow England Test stars Matthew Hoggard and Alastair Cook in a strong MCC side for the traditional season-opening fixture against county champions Sussex at Lord’s.
“It is not the first bad time in my career or the first brick wall in front of me. I have had a lot of things thrown at me in 10 years and I have come back stronger so far,” Harmison said recently.
“It makes you a better person and a better sportsman.
“I never fell out of love with cricket. I am fully confident I will be back here at Lord’s for the first Test of the summer wearing the England shirt again.”
As well as the established internationals the MCC side – captained by Cook - includes England players of the near-future in Yorkshire spinner Adil Rashid and Worcestershire wicketkeeper Steven Davies.
Coach Peter Moores said: “For us it’s the chance to bring in a lot of players who are in or around the England set-up. It will be competitive, but it will be hard and fair which is how everyone wants it.”
Sussex and England bowler James Kirtley said: “It’s an opportunity for players from both sides to impress. It will be the focal point of the start of the domestic season.
“It gives you an opportunity to see how you match up with the likes of Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison or Alastair Cook.
“Both teams have got fine players. Sussex have players who harbour international ambitions.
“And the MCC side boasts a number of internationals and players who should be involved this summer by anyone’s argument.”
Kirtley insists the winter upheaval which saw Chris Adams leave for Yorkshire only to return three weeks later and be reappointed captain has had no lasting effect as the squad look to retain their title.
“There are no issues there at all,” said Kirtley.
“The biggest thing we have got to deal with is expectation. We have to be very clear that we look forward and not reflect on what happened last year.”