Harry Gurney, a left-arm seamer with an ungainly action and intelligent variations, won opportunities for England in one-day cricket in 2014 in the first home series under the new set-up of Peter Moores as national coach and James Whitaker as national selector. But he failed to make the cut for the 2015 World Cup and, after Moores was sacked after a disastrous tournament, Gurney’s England chances receded and his priorities again rested with Nottinghamshire where Moores was soon to renew coaching links with him.
Gurney played club cricket for Loughborough Town before graduating through Leicestershire’s age group system. He missed most of 2007 with an ankle injury but made his first-class debut towards the end of the season and picked up a couple of wickets against Northamptonshire. In early 2008, while playing for Leeds-Bradford University, he showed his promise by removing Michael Vaughan and Jacques Rudolph.
His county career briefly hit problems in 2009 when after winning three summer contracts while studying economics at Leeds University, he was released by Leicestershire and invited to prove himself worthy of a contract the following April, something he initially refused before buckling down to win favour. He remained something of a short-format specialist and was Leicestershire’s leading wicket-taker in the 2011 Friends Life t20 with 23 scalps, but he missed Leicestershire’s Finals Day victory with a side strain.
His development as a four-day player made big strides after he joined Nottinghamshire at the end of the 2011 season – joining the likes of James Taylor and Stuart Broad in the move across the East Midlands in search of greater recognition. Gurney went on to take 21 wickets in 10 Championship appearances for his new county compared with three from only one opportunity for Leicestershire in 2011. When he doubled the tally in 2013, his reputation as a solid county performer had been established.
Gurney’s reputation began to blossom in 2013 when he finished the Championship season as Nottinghamshire’s leading wicket-taker, taking 44 wickets at 30, enough to catch the eye of the England management who invited him to pre-Ashes nets along with another left-arm quick, Tymal Mills, to prepare England (unsuccessfully as it turned out) for an expected onslaught from Mitchell Johnson.
Gurney’s success in white-ball cricket had also captured the attention. More good news followed when he was picked in the England squad for a limited-overs tour of West Indies and named as a travelling reserve for the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. He had a habit of taking top-order wickets and was adept bowling yorkers at the death. Add England’s constant craving for left-arm quick bowlers and he had much to commend him.
That won him 10 ODIs and two T20s in 2014 as England took a long look at him. After making an ODI debut against Scotland in Aberdeen, he acquitted himself ably in five ODIs against Sri Lanka – his best return coming with four wickets at Lord’s – but only made one further appearance against India in the one-day series at the end of the season. Selection followed for an ODI series in Sri Lanka the same year – his first overseas tour. “I want to go to the World Cup and win it,” he pronounced, but he missed out to his county team-mate Stuart Broad, back from injury, and with Eoin Morgan assuming the captaincy and Moores replaced as coach, his international career looked over.
Gurney’s stock as a bowler remained high, and there was time, too, for a personal tour de force with the bat. Gurney was a poster boy for No 11 batsmen, but his career-best display as the 2017 season died away could not have come at a more crucial time. Notts were in danger of following-on against Sussex at Hove on the third day, and defeat would have cost them promotion, but Gurney’s 42 not out in a last-wicket stand of 73 with Matt Carter followed up a farewell century by Chris Read and helped to plot a remarkable escape.
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