Tour of South Africa
Medico hails skipper's sleepless ton
Courage under fire from Clarke, Harris
11 March 2014, 05:47 PM AEST
Not only was Ryan Harris not expected to bowl in the second innings of the Test series decider against South Africa, he couldn't even lift his leg early on the fourth and fifth mornings.
Skipper Michael Clarke? He was in so much pain after paceman Morne Morkel's short-pitched bowling salvo on day one that he did not sleep.
These tales have already entered themselves into Australian cricket folklore, but what about the men who actually ensured these players could take the park?
Meet team doctor Peter Brukner and physio Alex Kountouris, who played key roles in Australia's victory in Cape Town last week.
Self-effacing as ever about his resilience, 34-year-old Harris described his injury as "a bit of a niggle in the hip flexor" without going into detail.
But as Harris underwent long-stalled knee surgery in Melbourne this week, Brukner explained how debilitating the issue really was.
"He couldn't lift his leg off the treatment table on the morning of day four," Brukner told AAP. "We worked pretty hard on him during that day, and he bowled that afternoon.
"That evening he was very sore and it was the same thing the following morning - he got up and couldn't lift his leg.
"By the time play started we managed to get him moving again. Obviously he was in discomfort during the day, but he's a very tough, resilient character."
Dry needling, massage, immobilisation and pain killers were the combined tonic for Harris' hip.
Brukner admitted he grew "very worried" about all three of the side's fast bowlers as day five ground on and on.
"I thought they were all just about at the end of their tether," he said.
Brukner and Kountouris also worked tirelessly on Clarke, who withstood severe blows to the shoulder, forearm and thumb from paceman Morkel on day one to finish unbeaten on 92.
Clarke gave up on the prospect of sleep at approximately 5am on day two, when the medical team helped put him on the path for a stoic innings of 161 not out.
"He was in a lot of pain. He didn't sleep at all that night," Brukner said. "Nothing was serious long term, just short term he was battered and bruised."
The injured stars both paid tribute to Brukner and Kountouris.
Brukner, who has worked with AFL clubs, English Premier League side Liverpool and countless national teams, was grateful but downplayed his role in the thrilling end to the three-Test series.
"They're very generous and try and deflect credit to Alex and me, but ultimately the players have to have the guts to get through the game," he said.
"I had the tremendous pleasure of looking after (Irish ruckman) Jim Stynes when he played 244 games in a row at Melbourne. A lot of it is just mental toughness.
"They have the ability to block out pain and concentrate. It's quite a difficult task when someone's bowling 145kph at you."