Cricket: Harris happier with batting form for Middlesex
- Credit: PA Wire/PA Images
James Harris has no plans to reinvent himself as a batting all-rounder despite – by his own admission – an undistinguished campaign with the ball.
Harris headed Middlesex's wicket-taking list last year with 61 Championship victims but, even taking a five-week injury absence into account, he has struggled to reproduce that form this season.
Conversely, the 29-year-old has impressed with the bat, rising up the order to six or seven and averaging above 30 for the second year in a row - as well as hitting his maiden century in the Royal London One-Day Cup earlier in the summer.
"I'll always see myself first and foremost as a seam bowler," said Harris. "I've been very frustrated for quite a while with how I'm bowling.
"I don't feel I've been as consistent as I'd like or expect to be and I should be taking more wickets. I feel that's always been my number one skill and it needs to improve.
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"It's always been on my radar to try and creep up the batting order because it'd help to balance the team. I love batting and I need to score as many runs as I can to help this team out.
"I'm happy with the way I'm batting but I should be scoring bigger runs. When you get to 30-odd and get out after doing a lot of hard work, you feel you probably should have got a few more.
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"I still want to be dangerous with the ball and bowling a lot of overs and if I can bring my batting up to a point where I can almost get in the team as a batsman, I'll take that."
Harris appeared to be making progress towards that latter aim earlier in the summer - but, while compiling his best Championship score of the season, a knock of 80 against Sussex in early June, he suffered a broken thumb.
That injury ruled the Welshman out of Middlesex's next five red-ball games and also helped to dash his hopes of featuring in their Vitality Blast campaign.
"If I'm getting that kind of injury - more a batsman's injury - I'll take it as a sign that I'm creeping up the order and doing more batting!" Harris observed.
"When you pull a hamstring, you feel there's something you could have done differently in the gym or with your fitness.
"But getting one that spits off a length and cracks your thumb, there's not much you can do about it. That was the first broken bone I've ever had and touch wood it'll be the last."
The Seaxes slid to a third successive defeat this week when they went down to Division Two champions Lancashire by 104 runs, despite the best efforts of Harris, who shared sizeable partnerships in each innings with John Simpson and Martin Andersson respectively.
Derbyshire are the visitors to Lord's for the culmination of an underwhelming four-day campaign, starting on Monday, and Harris acknowledged: "We haven't turned up consistently enough in this format.
"We've made some good strides in white-ball stuff, which we're pretty proud of, but we haven't played anywhere near as well as we needed to in the Championship. There's no hiding from that."