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Cricket: Paceman Steve Harmison has retired after a glittering career

Steve Harmison played in a pair of Ashes series wins

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England and Durham bowler Steve Harmison has announced his retirement from cricket at the age of 34.

The tall paceman played 62 times for his country, taking 226 wickets, and playing a prominent role in England's memorable Ashes victory over Australia in 2005.

He has also been a key figure at Durham but was unable to play any part in this season's County Championship success due to injury and his contract has now expired.

Harmison said: "Today I am announcing my retirement from professional cricket.

"I was hoping to go out on a high in my benefit year but my body has not allowed me to, and I have not made a single first-team appearance.

"With my contract up at the end of the season, I have known for a while I would be calling it a day, but I did not want to take the shine off such a magnificent campaign for Durham by announcing it before the end.

"I had plenty of highlights in an England career that spanned nine years, during which time I became the world's top-ranked Test bowler.

Starring role in 2005 series

"And, even with 123 appearances for England in all forms of the game, I still took 458 first-class wickets for Durham.

"The picture which gives me the most pleasure is of me walking off the field at Canterbury on the day we won Durham's first Championship. One hand, with its wrist broken, is clutching a stump, the other is around my brother Ben.

"Looking back on my career, there are many people that have played an important role so, to them, and the fans, thank you."

One of the most feared pacemen in world cricket at his peak, Harmison took 7-12 against West Indies in 2004 and claimed 17 victims in the 2005 Ashes, famously removing Michael Kasprowicz in the second Test at Edgbaston to secure a dramatic two-run victory.

His last Test appearance was in the 197-run win at The Oval in 2009 which sealed another Ashes series win and Harmison took 3-54 in the second innings.

He teamed up with Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones in a lauded four-man pace attack for England in 2005 but the quartet have all now retired to some extent, although Jones is to continue as a Twenty20 specialist.