Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Harmison Staying Focused on Ashes

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Harmison Staying Focused on Ashes

Article excerpt

Byline: Stuart Rayner

AFTER a winter low on enjoyment, Steve Harmison was back in surroundings which put a smile on his face yesterday.

But while the Ashington Express loves playing for Durham, he hopes not to do it very often this season.

The 30-year-old fast bowler was at the Riverside to launch Durham's 2009 campaign, during which they will defend their maiden County Championship.

As a key player in winning it, Harmison is excited about the prospect, but he is even more invigorated by the thought of regaining the Ashes.

"Hopefully, I can do my bit for Durham at the start of the season, but I'm ambitious and I want to play for England in the Ashes," he said. "I'm looking forward to starting the season here, but hopefully I won't see too much of Durham this year.

"I'm sure the club will carry on their success, whether I'm here or not." The gruelling trip from the Caribbean has ruled Harmison out of the champions v MCC curtain-raiser at Lord's, starting tomorrow.

England have prevented him playing in Durham's first competitive game this season - a 50-over affair against Yorkshire on April 19 - and the three-day clash at Durham University proceeding it.

It will only add to the frustration of a player whose involvement in England's winter schedule was sporadic, playing three of seven Tests, seven of 10 onedayers and no Twenty20 cricket.

"I'll not be playing at Lord's this week," he said. "I didn't get to sleep until about 6.30 (yesterday morning) and I'm still suffering from a bit of jet-lag, so I'm going to rest instead.

"It's been a long time away, but if I'm honest, I haven't been able to play as much as I would have liked." Some feel he would be best sitting out the return series against the West Indies and preparing for Australia by finding his rhythm with Durham. But Harmison disagrees. "I want to play every game for

England that's possible," he insisted. "I enjoy my cricket most when I'm playing.

I've not been enjoying my cricket very much in the last few months. When I'm not playing, it's difficult to sit and watch.

"At the first available opportunity when the body is ready, I want to be playing. …

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