Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harmison Has Earned This Chance to Be Local Hero

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Harmison Has Earned This Chance to Be Local Hero

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID LLOYD

STEVE HARMISON is facing another big challenge this week. But at least he knows several thousand spectators, plus an entire region of well-wishers, will be rooting for him this time.

It didn't always feel like that for Harmison, 24, in Australia last winter.

The Durham fast bowler had to try to block out the hecklers when his radar failed him in several one-day games and he was also jeered by home supporters after 'losing' his run-up during the Ashes Test in Perth.

But Harmison came through those ordeals, successfully fought an injury battle and managed to cope with spending the thick end of five months away from his family - during which time his second daughter was born.

At least homesickness won't be a problem this week. Instead, the North East is hoping for a glorious case of local boy makes good when Harmison steps on to Chester-le-Street's Riverside ground for England's second and final npower Test against Zimbabwe.

"It is going to be a huge occasion for Steve," said chairman of selectors Dav id Graveney.

"Everyone will be willing him to do well but as far as we are concerned he just needs to carry on bowling the way he has."

England is about to receive its first new Test ground for 101 years with Riverside joining the rota more than a century after Birmingham's Edgbaston and Sheffield's Bramall Lane.

Sometimes it has seemed almost as long since the country had a big, brooding fast bowler to give opposition batsmen a real hurry-up.

Well, Harmison - a football mad, Newcastle United supporter from the footballing hotbed of Ashington - possesses all the equipment to be just that person, if only England can stay patient.

"He has the potential to provide us with something we haven't had for quite a while," said captain Nasser Hussain.

"But he also has the potential to look very average so we have to work with him and continue to support him."

Those comments were made in Australia five months ago after a particularly messy one-day performance when Harmison gifted the opposition nearly two extra overs through bowling wides.

But England, as Hussain promised, are sticking with the 24-year-old in both forms of the game.

It is as a Test bowler, however, that Harmison ought to succeed first. And, by virtue of having six caps already to Jimmy Anderson's one and the none of Richard Johnson and James Kirtley, he will be the side's most experienced paceman on Thursday.

"That's not something you really think about after only six caps," said Harmison with a smile.

"But I feel I've proved I can play at this level."

The stats are by no means sensational: 16 Test wickets at 40 runs apiece with a best innings return so far of three for 57.

But he has the pace England want, his accuracy is improving all the time and he showed real commitment to the cause last winter. …

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