Revitalised paceman has record haul in sight

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The Independent Online

After the first two Tests against the West Indies, Steve Harmison is in sight of the England record for the highest number of wickets in a series in the Caribbean.

After the first two Tests against the West Indies, Steve Harmison is in sight of the England record for the highest number of wickets in a series in the Caribbean.

The Durham paceman, who was Man of the Match in both Tests, now has 16 wickets to his name after fine performances in Jamaica and Trinidad. The record of 27 is held jointly by The Independent's Angus Fraser and John Snow - and both had the advantage of an extra Test. England play just four Tests in the Caribbean, while Fraser and Snow both featured in five.

Harmison has taken his wickets at a remarkable average of 10.88. He has already surpassed John Emburey's 14 in the 1986 series and is one behind Andy Caddick's 1994 mark. Devon Malcolm, who took 19 in 1990, should also be passed.

England now hope that Harmison is capable of leading the attack for several years. The coach, Duncan Fletcher, and successive captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan invested a lot of time in him and their efforts are bearing fruit.

Harmison looked far from world class at the start of the Australia tour last winter, when he gained a reputation more for being wayward than taking wickets. He bowled 16 wides in one warm-up match, lost his run-up in another and broke Ashley Giles' wrist during a net session.

He did produce a good performance at Melbourne and also impressed against South Africa at The Oval, but it was the decision not to award him a central contract last autumn which gave him the spur he needed. He responded with a Man-of-the-Match display against Bangladesh in Dhaka last year, and although he missed the tour of Sri Lanka through injury, he spent his time wisely and worked hard on his fitness.

He returned to take 7 for 12 as England crushed the West Indies in the first Test, and followed up with 6 for 61 in the first innings of the second Test. He also took the crucial wicket of the home side's captain, Brian Lara, in the second innings at Port of Spain.

Much has been made of his pace but his recent successis due largely to his ability to put the ball in the right areas. The virtues of a consistent line and length were demonstrated by Fraser six years ago when he claimed 27 wickets at 18.22 including career-best figures of 8 for 53. Snow's victims the last time England won a series in the Caribbean in 1968 came at a cost of 18.66, with three five-wicket hauls and one 10-wicket match.

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