Richard Harris impresses for England Over 60s down under

Richard Harris receiving his cap from John Foster

A little piece of Pembrokeshire Cricketing history was made in the cold, wet months of November and December when Cresselly all-rounder Richard Harris became the first Pembrokeshire cricketer to represent England in a test series against Australia.

Richard was the only Welshman in the English over 60s squad to travel to the Southern Hemisphere for three one-day internationals against their counterparts and during that five weeks all the hard work and total commitment to the trek proved hugely worthwhile as he represented England in all three one-day internationals and helped them to a 2-1 success – and was man of the match in the opening test for his excellent batting and bowling – but more of that later.

His pedigree in the game is well documented but it is worth repeating that in his times at Burton and Cresselly Cricket Clubs he was widely regarded as one of the best-ever opening batsmen who could also take wickets galore with his deceptive medium-paced swing bowling.

Not contented with those cricketing experiences he also played for Pembrokeshire on more occasions then he could possibly recall, represented Wales over 50s and 60’s many times, including four seasons as captain of the latter over the past decade or so – and was the first Welshman to achieve Level Three status in coaching, not only in our county but across Wales!

Looking smart in his kit

Richard still played for Cresselly last season as captain of the third XI and also continued his representation of the Wales over 60’s team that did really well in matches against most of the regions and encountered all the previous incumbents in the English set-up who were anticipating this inaugural three-match series in Australia where John Foster (Shropshire) was to be the captain.

“I had known John for some time, including an international match in September 2018 where I bowled and batted well for Wales against England at Cheltenham and it was he who first mooted I should consider aiming for selection – and it was John, plus some English regions, who recommended me for trail nets.”

At the start there were 60+ trialists for final net sessions at Edgbaston and that number was gradually whittled down until two teams were chosen for a trial match at Banbury, in Oxfordshire.

“I felt I had played well but there were some very experienced cricketers there,” admitted Richard, “so it meant a nerve-wracking wait until I finally received a confirmation letter telling me that I had been successful and needed to be available to play from 6th November to the 9th December – and I was delighted after so much travel and time spent!”

Prior to the trip with the English team Richard had already caught the eye with his part in a winning team against a Pakistan team still in the development stage and for a Chairman's XI which took on an Australia outfit which was taking part in a test series in this country.

"I was disappointed not to be included for those games," Richard told us, "but to be honest it just made me more determined to be part of the squad for the Australian tour.

Thus it was that Richard jetted out to Adelaide a few days early and he spent time acclimatising himself to the heat, playing a round of golf and watching a Sheffield Shield match between South Australia and New South Wales at the Adelaide Oval.

"It was really surreal because I walked into this huge stadium, wasn't charged to go in and joined around 500 Aussies as a tiny-looking crowd.

"Then I met the rest of the tour squad and made a good start in a friendly against New Zealand where we scored 202 for 3 and limited them to 141 for 9 - I wasn't needed to bat but was delighted that as first change bowler my figures were six overs, three maidens, eight runs and two wickets! "

Richard didn't bat in the official opener  against a mix of South and West Australia players representing The President's XI - but announced his quality in style against a Tasmanian International XI in Launceston  by taking 2 for 38 and then when England struggled with the bat at 60 for 4 in 30 overs he top scored with 38 to guide his side to 145 for 4 with five wickets still in hand.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

The official team pic at the Bowral Stadium

There was an even stronger performance against the Australian Capital Territory at The Chater Oval in Mittagong as Richard hit 49 from 35 deliveries as he put on 120 with Mike Stafford (Middlesex) but they lost by eight wickets - although there was some compensation for him as he was adjudge the visitors' man of the match.

"We had a great evening of singing and aborigine dancing and my other memory of the game was that if the ball was hit beyond the deepish boundary line the home players were reluctant to venture after it because of lurking snakes and spiders in the undergrowth!

"That was a kick up the backside before the first test match as we played at the Bowral Oval, the spiritual home of Sir Donald Bradman, where they had lunch and a special dinner afterwards in the museum named after 'The Don'.

"It was absolutely the highlight for me," said Richard because I grabbed 3 for 19 out of 154 for 7 in 40 overs and then top scored with 40 as we reached our target on 156 for 6 with seven balls left."

But Richard strained a groin muscle and missed matches against New South Wales City (at the Manly Oval) and New South Wales Central Coast (Baker Park) before returning for a disappointing second test match (played at Pasterfield Sports Complex at Lake Macquarie, near Newcastle), where they lost by 20 runs despite his bowling a tight spell and contributing 13 runs before being judged LBW.

"Rick McCosker spoke at the post-match dinner," Richard told us, "but we were really disappointed to miss out after at one time being in a good position.

There were a couple of other matches before 'The Decider' as the teams met in the third test at Brisbane and England batted first and reached 226 for 8, with Richard chipping in with a useful 30 runs and Richard bowled his full quota to return figures of 1 for 33 as Australia finished up a tantalising 11 runs short of victory.

"We had a good night afterwards," said Richard with typical understatement!

His huge successes with this squad is hopefully the fore-runner of more such competitive cricket because in October 2020 he will be back in Australia as skipper of the Welsh Over 60s team that will travel to Brisbane for the World Cup and he is convinced he will have a strong squad, hopefully with a couple of other Pembrokeshire players there.

Included prior to their four-week stint will be one game in Hong Kong en route, plus other matches this summer to build the team ethos.

"It will be a massive challenge for us," admitted Richard, "and it will be strange because at some time in the opposition will be a number of my colleagues from the recent trip to Australia."

Richard meets up with former Pembroke CC ex-pat Jeff Powell