Harmison's devastating display delivers win for Durham

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The Independent Online

The England fast bowler Steve Harmison gained the early season boost he was looking for as Durham crushed Leicestershire by an innings and 216 runs at Grace Road to win inside three days.

The England fast bowler Steve Harmison gained the early season boost he was looking for as Durham crushed Leicestershire by an innings and 216 runs at Grace Road to win inside three days.

Harmison, playing in the first of four County Championship matches he will feature in before returning to England duty, claimed 4 for 30 in 19 overs as Leicestershire were dismissed for 184 in their second innings.

It was Harmison's best first-class figures for Durham in nearly three years. Last season he did not play a Championship match, he took 4 for 50 against Worcestershire in 2003 and had a five-wicket haul against Gloucestershire in 2002.

Ian Blackwell continued his relentless push for a return to England by scoring a timely century against Lancashire during a weather-hit day at Old Trafford. The Somerset all-rounder's only international recognition to date has come with the one-day side, where he has made 23 appearances over a two-year period without ever really establishing himself at that level.

But a promising County Championship campaign last summer, when he averaged 62 as Somerset missed out on promotion from the Second Division, has continued into the start of the season.

Blackwell hit a superb 122 on the third day of Somerset's Championship match at Old Trafford to put his side on course for an unexpected first-innings lead only to squander the opportunity by losing their last three wickets in five balls. He was denied the chance to make a further contribution with his left-arm spin as rain and bad light limited play to just 33.1 overs, as Lancashire claimed an 84-run lead by reaching 33 for 1 just after lunch when the weather closed in.

There is little prospect of anything other than a dispute over bonus points awaiting Sussex and Surrey on today's final day of their rain-ruined County Championship opener at The Oval. Bad weather, which has robbed the first three days of 185 overs, relented long enough yesterday morning only for Surrey to keep the Sussex attack at bay in awkward conditions and add 27 runs to reach 33 for 1, in reply to the visitors' first-innings 370.

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