Tector aims for higher honours after success in Zimbabwe

Tector aims for higher honours after success in Zimbabwe

MALHAR HATHI chats with Ireland’s middle-order batsman from Dublin, Harry Tector

Harry Tector is yet to put a foot wrong.

His purple patch with the bat for Ireland has produced eleven 50-plus scores in his last 15 ODI innings and three centuries in his last five trips to the crease in the format.

In Zimbabwe last month, which was the side’s first International series since a memorable T20 World Cup campaign Down Under in November, normal service resumed for Tector.

An unbeaten century and a 75 won him the player-of-the-series after the final ODI was washed out in Harare. But it was with the ball in the T20I series that turned heads.

The nine overs he sent down with his off-spin, four of which he bowled in the powerplay, yielded him five wickets at a miserly economy of 4.41 runs an over - the best by any bowler to have bowled more than two overs in the series. Why hadn’t he bowled before in the format?

“Because I’m not very good!” Tector laughed.

“If I wouldn’t have got to bowl, I probably would have never really bowled. I bowled well in Nepal and in a tournament in the United States against Bal’s (captain Andrew Balbirnie) team so he saw me bowl. I think the team just wanted to see how I bowled and thankfully, it went alright.

He came into the Zimbabwe series on the back of a successful Nepal T20 tournament where his seven wickets in a six-match stint played a crucial role in his team, Lumbini All Stars’ title-winning campaign.

“I bowled a lot when I was younger so the expectation back then was I shouldn’t bowl badly but on the flip side, I expect to get smashed bowling off spin in the powerplay. Knowing that frees you up a bit. It was awesome to do the job for the team.”

His returns may not surprise those who have followed him since his Under-16 days; he played the Under-19 World Cup in 2016 hosted by Bangladesh primarily as an off-spinner but his calling at the International stage for Ireland has been with the bat in the middle order. The presence of Andy McBrine and Simi Singh has also meant his part-time services with the ball have not been required.

But there was a tactical nous to Tector’s success in Harare. With McBrine out of favour in the shortest format and Singh dropped for the tour, Tector was the only off-spinner who could turn the ball away from the left-handed batters and Zimbabwe fielded four in their line-up. The fact that Tector hadn’t bowled in a T20I before made it harder for Zimbabwe’s batters to plan against him.

To capitalise on the perfect match-up, Tector turned to Nathan Hauritz, the former Australian off-spinner and Ireland’s spin-bowling coach, to draw up plans.

“I am like a perfect candidate for Nathan because I’ll do exactly what he asks me to do,” Tector said.

“Nathan was really helpful. He would look at all the data and statistics and I just look to execute it. For instance, in the powerplay, bowling with two men up straight is statistically harder to play with an off-spinner bowling at Harare. That’s when data comes into play and because I am tall, I can use the bounce on offer as well.”

Harry Tector in action against Afghanistan (Getty Images)

With Tector’s success, it gives Ireland another bowling option and he understands the greater responsibility he will assume with an upcoming tour to Bangladesh in March and a World Cup in India in October, should Ireland qualify for it.

The tour to Bangladesh features three ODIs and as many T20Is but will be headlined by the one-off Test match in Dhaka, Ireland’s first since 2019 and fourth overall since they were granted full-member status.

Given Tector’s outstanding record with the bat, and the potential to play a role with the ball, few would begrudge him his maiden Test cap in the country he captained the Ireland Wolves in in March 2021.

“It’s something I have always wanted to do since I was a boy growing up in Dublin,” Tector said. “Hopefully, if I do get a Test cap, it would be a dream come true. My time in Bangladesh in 2021 was restricted by the Covid bubble but it would be nice to get back out there again for a full tour.”

Ireland is also scheduled to play a one-off Test against England at Lord’s, their second at the venue. Tector recalled fond memories of the last time the side played there in 2019 after Tim Murtagh famously returned figures of 5-13 to bowl England out for 85 on the first morning. Eventually, Ireland catapulted to 38 all out in their final innings chase of 182.

The idea of being involved in yet another historic occasion is exciting for Tector.

“It’s amazing. I haven’t really thought about it because you are programmed to think about what’s next,” the 23-year-old Dubliner said.

“I remember watching the Lord’s Test on TV and just going, ‘mate this is amazing’, when Murts (Murtagh) got five on the first morning to bowl them out for 85. It was awesome to watch. I have never played at Lord’s so to make my debut at the ground against England in a Test match, it will be a dream come true.”

Currently, Tector is in South Africa to watch his girlfriend, Gaby Lewis, turn out for Ireland in the women’s T20 World Cup. The side kick start their campaign against England on February 13 and take on Pakistan, West Indies and India.

Tector has been part of two wins against the English - one in an ODI in Southampton two years ago and the other as recently as October last year in the T20 World Cup. Has the prospect of the women’s team emulating the feat come up?

“Nope,” he laughed. “We wouldn’t try to compete, we just try and support each other but geez, I hope they do beat them.”