Harmison aims to rewrite Durham's record books

Durham 648-5dec Notts 384 & 212
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The Independent Online

Steve Harmison has no intention of following Michael Vaughan's lead by turning his back on county cricket, even though his international career may be over.

Vaughan, England captain until the end of last summer, retired from all cricket in June this year, shortly after learning that he would not be required to represent his country in the Ashes series. The prospect of continuing as a player for Yorkshire alone simply had no appeal.

Harmison, stripped of his central contract last week after taking part in only one Ashes Test, may have worn the Three Lions for the last time but made it clear as he celebrated a second straight County Championship title with Durham that he sees two or even three more years ahead of him in the county game, his ambition focussed on challenging Simon Brown's record as Durham's all-time leading wicket-taker.

Brown, who made one Test appearance, took 518 first-class scalps for the county in 11 seasons before retiring in 2002, having at the same time helped Harmison develop his own career. Harmison's three wickets on Saturday, including the final one of Mark Ealham as Durham clinched the title with an innings victory over Nottinghamshire, took his tally to 399.

"Simon Brown is someone I look up to," Harmison said. "He was the mainstay of this club when times were hard and a great servant to Durham. If I could get close to him it would give me great pride."

As Jack Simmons, chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board's cricket committee, handed captain Will Smith the trophy on Saturday evening, Harmison's bond with the club was unmistakable as he mingled with supporters on the field, then found a place among other families to play tennis ball games with his children.

The picture delighted the Durham coach, Geoff Cook, who now sees Harmison playing a key role in the county's attempt to be the first since Yorkshire in the mid-1960s to win three titles in a row. "Everything about Stephen Harmison fills me with pleasure, not just hearing that he wants to chase Simon Brown's record," Cook said. "He is a really good lad – a great lad to have in the Durham dressing room.

"He is a bit misunderstood sometimes because when he has a cricket ball in his hand no one tries harder, whichever team he is playing for.

"I have not spoken to him yet about the disappointment he must be feeling over his England contract but it is typical of his attitude when he plays for Durham that he has turned up and bowled like a champion.

"I hope he finishes his career in the way he wants to do because he deserves it. He has been a great player for Durham and a fine, fine player for England."