Middlesex star Harris growing in confidence after destroying Durham with nine-wicket haul

James Harris celebrates a wicket. Pic: TGSPHOTO

James Harris celebrates a wicket. Pic: TGSPHOTO - Credit: TGSPHOTO

James Harris says he is gaining confidence all the time after devastating Durham with career-best figures to clinch a dramatic Middlesex victory at Lord’s.

The Middlesex paceman, who struggled for form and fitness last year, has begun the current campaign with a bang, amassing 26 wickets in his first three County Championship games.

Exactly half of those came in this week’s see-saw clash against Durham, where Harris returned the astonishing figures of 9-34 in the visitors’ second innings and sealed victory by 187 runs.

“I’m in a good place and feeling more and more confident every time I bowl,” said Harris. “There are spells where I’m certainly bowling quicker than I did in the past.

“That’s something we were searching for last year, a bit of extra pace, but the results are coming now and if I get my tail up, I always feel I’ve got a chance of getting a few on the bounce.

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“If you can do that in your first spell, that’s when you get teams 50 for three or four in the morning and really put them under pressure and dominate games, which is what we’re trying to do.

“I was banned by [bowling coach] Richard Johnson from saying things like ‘it’s coming, I’m getting there’ – he’s told me to say that it’s there now.

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“There are still improvements to be made – there always are – but, as a general rule, I feel I’m bowling nicely and I’m really happy with the way it’s coming out.”

The 24-year-old had to shoulder a greater share of the workload than usual against Durham, with opening bowler Tim Murtagh sending down just two deliveries before he pulled up with a hamstring strain.

The injury, which ruled Murtagh out of Ireland’s one-day international against England later this week, meant that Harris and Steven Finn had to carry Middlesex’s seam attack, with support from Neil Dexter and James Franklin.

“Whenever you lose a bowler, especially of Tim Murtagh’s calibre, it’s going to cause a hole or slight weakness in the attack,” added Harris, now in his third season at Middlesex since moving from his native Glamorgan.

“It’s a horrible situation to be in and I’ve been there in the past, where you tweak a hamstring. You can’t do anything about that, it happens and it’s a real shame for Murts because he’s been bowling very nicely.”

Despite his injury, Murtagh did play a part on the third day, limping to the wicket after Middlesex had collapsed to 50-9 in their second innings and batting with John Simpson as his runner.

Murtagh’s unbeaten knock of 22, in tandem with last man Finn (15), not only added another 39 runs to the Middlesex total, but also helped to shift the psychological advantage back towards the home side.

And Durham’s victory target of 259 proved to be well out of reach, with four of their batsmen falling to Harris for ducks as he ran through their line-up for only 71.

The win, Middlesex’s second in three games, lifted them to the top of the fledgling Division One table – and Harris believes the Lord’s side have proved they mean business.

“Durham were missing a few of their players, with Graham Onions out and a couple more away with England, but they’ve still put out a good team,” added Harris.

“They’ve had some great results in the last few years and championship-winning sides as well. So this result really sends a message to other teams and hopefully no-one’s looking forward to playing us at the moment.”

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