Middlesex’s former Glamorgan bowler targets strong finish to Twenty20 campaign
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James Harris feels Middlesex must use their remaining Twenty20 fixtures to ensure they enter the new 50-over competition in good shape later this month.
The Panthers have endured a wretched campaign in the NatWest T20 Blast, losing eight of their 10 matches so far, and are out of the running for the quarter-finals.
But seamer Harris is optimistic that, if Middlesex complete their South programme in positive fashion, they can carry that into the Royal London Cup, which gets under way at the end of July.
The 50-over trophy has replaced the 40-over tournament of recent years, in which the Panthers performed well, narrowly missing out on the semi-finals in each of the past three seasons.
“The Twenty20 has been a hugely frustrating competition – it was felt we certainly had a good chance to progress,” said Harris. “That was the minimum goal we were looking at, to be honest.
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“To be in the position we’re in is very disappointing. We didn’t get the best of starts and it’s never really kicked off – we haven’t been able to consistently put both halves of the game together.
“But there’s a huge amount of talent in the squad – some of the young guys have come in and done well and I imagine they’ll get a lot more experience in the rest of this competition.
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“It’s now about working on our skills and making sure those skills are in place for when the 50-over competition comes round and we can put on a really good show.
“It’s interesting because it’s going to be more or less all in one block, which is what the 20-over competition has been in previous years, and starting well is critical.
“If we make a good start there’s no reason why we can’t get on a roll and make a good push for it – we’ve shown before that we’ve got the strength in our team to beat anybody.”
Middlesex’s first opponents in the 50-over cup will be Glamorgan – who are also the visitors for their next T20 Blast fixture at Richmond on Thursday, starting at 5.30pm.
That scenario brings back memories for Harris, who played for the Welsh county when the Panthers hammered them by 84 runs at Old Deer Park four years ago.
The 24-year-old is relishing the opportunity to finish on the winning side this time, while Middlesex also have another useful source of information on the opposition – paceman Tom Helm, who recently spent a loan period in south Wales.
“I remember Adam Gilchrist and David Warner opening the batting for Middlesex and Dawid Malan smacking Shaun Tait for quite a few in the last over,” Harris recalled.
“So I know what Richmond’s all about – it’s going to be quick and high-scoring. I’m looking forward to seeing some of the Glamorgan boys, but hopefully we can turn them over.
“Tom Helm’s given us a bit of insight and I’ve added what I know – although there are a lot of new faces since I left – and we’ll be looking to get one over on them.”
Harris had to sit out a good deal of cricket last season due to a niggling hamstring problem, but has featured regularly in Middlesex’s Twenty20 side this year.
However, the Welshman – who left Glamorgan to move to Lord’s in 2012 – has found it harder to hold down a place in the four-day team, having taken just 10 County Championship wickets so far this summer at an average of 47.70.
And, having been left out for their last three Championship games, Harris accepts it will take a good deal of hard graft if he is to dislodge one of Middlesex’s main wicket-taking trio.
“A lot of seamers around the world seem to go through a period of injuries at some point and hopefully I’ve gone through my couple of years now,” he added.
“We’ve done a lot of remedial work on my game and I really feel that’s close to all clicking together. Hopefully I can get back some of my old form, which saw me take a lot of wickets for Glamorgan, and that’s what I’m paid to do, basically.
“Then it’s a case of trying to find my way back into the team. Toby [Roland-Jones], [Steven] Finn and [Tim] Murtagh are doing a sterling job with the ball at the moment.
“So I’ve got to be bowling better than one of those three to get a place, which is exactly how it should be. I’ll be working my backside off to try and boot one of them out if I can.”