Durham 266 Nottinghamshire 114-4: 'Harmy Army' press case for Test recall

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The Independent Online

It needed just a dozen overs from Stephen Harmison on a low, slow Trent Bridge pitch for everyone to realise the obvious, that the Durham fast bowler is ready to return to Test cricket.

After a slow start in the County Championship, Harmison, 29, who was dropped after making his 57th appearance for England against New Zealand in Hamilton in March, has made up a lot of ground and is now the leading wicket-taker in the First Division.

His two victims in this match have taken him to 42 in eight matches and he has impressed everyone, not least his captain Dale Benkenstein, who said, during one of five breaks for rain and bad light, which eventually brought a premature end to play, on a frustrating second day: "Harmy made the pitch look a bit quicker than anyone else." But Benkenstein acknowledged: "At the beginning of the season he was playing nowhere near international standard and if they had picked him then it would have been like throwing him to the wolves."

Since mid-May Harmison has hit form and Benkenstein added: "He's been brilliant, outstanding. He poses a threat every time he comes up to bowl. I'm sure he would pose a threat to South Africa. He's confident now. He has been bowling lots of overs and has good control.

"There's no reason why, if there was a bit in the wicket, a bit of bounce, that he won't exploit it. It looks like he's next in line [for The Oval Test] – and he deserves it. I'd love to see Harmy back in the England side. That's our job. We want to win the championship, but it's also number one for him to get back."

Even Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, Mick Newell, joined the Harmy Army, echoing Benkenstein's views. "I think the wicket at The Oval will have a lot more bounce in it than this one. And, if England play on a wicket with bounce in it, then I am sure Harmison would be a handful. On a bouncy wicket like that you think they would want another bowler who would get the ball up and through, like Flintoff can, and try to take them on a little bit."

Harmison certainly took on Nottinghamshire yesterday in the 32 overs that were squeezed in between stoppages. He struck early on to claim the wicket of the opener Matthew Wood, lbw, then, after the first break for the weather, he had Mark Wagh taken at third slip by Callum Thorp.

With Benkenstein and Thorp also picking up a wicket apiece, Nottinghamshire wobbled in the nervous nineties, and without a solid half-century from opener Bilal Shafayat, his second fifty in successive innings, they would have been some way further adrift than the 152 runs they trail by.

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