Harmison's six-wicket burst rips heart out of Lancashire

Lancashire 199 & 173; Durham 338 & 35-1
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The Independent Online

There was a time when England strike bowlers regarded playing for their counties as an opportunity, metaphorically speaking, to put their feet up. Not Steve Harmison. The pattern of this year's international calendar has allowed the 26-year-old to play his first Championship cricket for almost two years and he has relished it.

There was a time when England strike bowlers regarded playing for their counties as an opportunity, metaphorically speaking, to put their feet up. Not Steve Harmison. The pattern of this year's international calendar has allowed the 26-year-old to play his first Championship cricket for almost two years and he has relished it.

His county have enjoyed it, too. Yesterday he returned the best figures of his career in domestic first-class cricket, taking six Lancashire wickets for 52 runs as the runaway leaders of the Second Division stormed to an unprecedented fourth win in a row.

As Durham completed their first win in Lancashire with nine wickets and over five sessions to spare, Harmison had established himself as the country's leading wicket-taker, with 27 in four matches at an average of 14.82. He will not play in the Championship again in 2005 but leaves his county in the best shape of their first-class life.

"It will feel a bit of a wrench not to be playing when the lads start their next Championship game," he said. "But every objective has been achieved. I wanted to take some wickets and get my confidence back and to help Durham get some results.

"Personally, everything feels fine. Apart from the first game against Leicestershire, when I had not had any outdoor nets, I've bowled as well as I can. The ball is coming out of the hand nicely and I've got some good players out."

They now include his close friend Andrew Flintoff, although Harmison conceded that his England team-mate would have been "disappointed" with Steve Garratt's decision to give him out leg before after a fluent half-century containing a dozen fours.

Flintoff's dismissal was the beginning of the end for Lancashire, who still trailed by four runs at five down overnight. Harmison went on to take four wickets for 12 runs in the space of 16 balls for match figures of 9 for 84. Mick Lewis chipped in by removing Dominic Cork, Phil Mustard added four catches to his splendid first-innings 77 and Durham were left to score 35 to win.

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