SIMON Harmer is delighted to be flying the flag for the county game as one of Wisden's cricketers of the year, taking his place in a tradition he has followed since his childhood in Pretoria.

Essex spinner Harmer has been named alongside Jofra Archer, Pat Cummins, Marnus Labuschagne and Ellyse Perry in the almanack's annual list of star performers from the previous year and is the only one of the quintet to be recognised for his achievements at domestic level.

The 31-year-old has experienced life on the international scene, winning five Test caps for South Africa in 2015, but has spent the past three seasons on a Kolpak deal at Chelmsford, turning in the what has been the best cricket of his career.

In 2019 he topped the first-class wicket charts in England, taking 83 scalps as Essex reclaimed the Specsavers County Championship title, and captained the club to Twenty20 success in the Vitality Blast.

It was a best-in-class return from Harmer and more that fully warranted recognition from an institution he has been invested in for almost two decades.

"I think the biggest thing is the tradition that goes with this award. I'm extremely happy to know I'll be joining the ranks along with some truly incredible cricketers," he told the PA news agency.

"I can still remember as a 12 or 13 year old reading who the Wisden cricketers of the year were, it's a prestigious list that's been going for well over a hundred years.

"I'm genuinely proud of what we've achieved as a team and what I have achieved personally as well. My team-mate Jamie Porter won in 2018, so I could see with my own eyes what it was all about and how much it meant to him.

"The level of county cricket is really, really high compared to other competitions around the world and I think it shows in terms of other people who have won the award over the years. I wouldn't say I'm carrying everybody this year but it's a good advertisement for county cricket and good for the domestic game and the players it's producing."

Harmer already has plans for the limited collectors' edition of the almanack that he will receive for his achievement, even if he is still working on the particulars.

"The plan is for my brother and I to buy a beach house at some stage when we can afford it. We're going to have a bar there where all the cricket memorabilia from my career will be displayed," he said.

"I'm quite a private person, when somebody walks into my house I don't want them to know I play cricket, but I'm looking forward to the day I can put up my memorabilia and when I do I can guarantee the leatherbound Wisden will be one of the centrepieces."

Harmer will have to wait alongside everyone else for his chance to build on last year's stellar efforts, with the coronavirus crisis thrusting the entire season into doubt.

There will be no action before May 28, with a near certainty of further delays. He has already been keeping himself busy in the best kind of way, hitting the phones to call Essex members with messages of support and joining five other team-mates, led by club captain Tom Westley, in preparing over 1,000 hot meals for NHS staff in the local area.

"It was very humbling to be able to provide some sort of support for our NHS workers and for those vulnerable people in our community who need our support right now," he said.

"It's impossible not to feel the gravity of the situation when you see and hear about the long shifts that doctors and nurses are undertaking to saves lives.

"They are heroes in my eyes, and I know everyone around the country feels the same, so it was an absolutely privilege to be able to do my small bit to help out."