Middlesex bowler says squad rotation is vital for Lord’s side

James Harris in action for Middlesex

James Harris in action for Middlesex - Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo

Middlesex seamer James Harris feels squad rotation is essential if the club are to successfully negotiate a punishing schedule during the coming weeks.

Harris, who was Middlesex’s leading wicket-taker last year, has featured in both of their first two County Championship fixtures so far this season, against Warwickshire and Durham.

The Lord’s side are scheduled to play a four-day match every week until the beginning of June – and Harris, having struggled with injuries in the past, accepts that bowlers in particular may have to sit out games during that period.

James Fuller, who joined the club from Gloucestershire over the winter, was left out of the side against Durham at Chester-le-Street, along with all-rounder James Franklin, and Harris said: “We want to win games of cricket and win championships and having a strong bowling attack is part of that.

“Guys are going to miss out in games they feel they should play – guys who perhaps, in different places, would be playing every week. But that drives everyone to get better.

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“Having Jimmy Fuller on board is great for us. He’s going to help our one-day cricket a lot but he’s a damn fine red-ball bowler as well.

“So there’s competition for places and a bad performance here and there can see you out of the team – but that’s how competitive sport should be.

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“We’re playing seven Sundays in a row and these first two months are very hard for us. But we’ve got a big squad, so hopefully we can rotate and keep everyone fresh and firing as much as possible.”

Middlesex’s fixture programme becomes more varied from the end of next month, when they begin their NatWest T20 Blast campaign against Hampshire, soon followed by the Royal London One-Day Cup.

However, Harris is hopeful that the players’ workload will be eased more significantly by the controversial change to the County Championship for next year, when Division One is reduced from nine teams to eight.

“It still feels very hectic at the moment,” said the 25-year-old. “After the first two months, when we play so much championship cricket, hopefully it’ll get easier.

“August is probably the month where we’ve got a little more downtime to recover before we go hard again in September. But I think 2017 is where the schedule will hopefully iron out.

“I know it’s a contentious issue, with two fewer championship games, but it looks to me like that may be the way to move forward and spread it out a little bit.

“That way you haven’t got guys playing cricket, then in the car, more cricket and back in the car all the time, which leads to standards going down with people playing on empty to try and get through games.

“That’s not how it should be – the best players should be going up against each other as fresh as they can be every week. The way the schedule’s shaping up, I think 2017 is where it could all become a bit more favourable.”

The revamped set-up means that only the Division Two champions will be promoted this season to replace the two relegated teams among the elite.

And Harris believes that adjustment can only increase the competitive nature of the top flight, adding: “This year, you’d say, is the strongest that Division One can possibly be.

“There weren’t any easy games anyway and there certainly aren’t now. You’ve got to be on the ball every time or you’re going to get turned over, so it’s going to be a scrap for every point throughout the year.”

Bad weather ensured that Middlesex’s County Championship game at Chester-le-Street finished in a draw, with Durham reaching 305-4 in reply to the visitors’ first innings total of 389.

Middlesex continue their four-day campaign with another game on the road when they face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl, starting on Sunday.

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