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James’ season to saviour


Robert Lloyd of the south Wales evening Post looks back on a fine sum- mer for Glamorgan’s James Harris


In terms of knocking on the door of the English selectors, James Harris could not have done more in 2010 had he gone round to the headquarters of the England and Wales Cricket Board armed with a sledgehammer. Unfortu- nately, for the 20-year-old Glamorgan seamer, others must have been banging harder.


So, instead of packing his bags as part of the England Lions squad heading Down Under to shadow the Ashes party in the autumn of 2010, James embarked on year two of his fast bowling strength and conditioning pro- gramme at England’s less glamorous academy base in Loughborough.


Harris’s omission only added fuel to those conspiracy theorists who believe players this side of the Severn get harshly treated when it comes to national selection. But, to his credit, the Pontarddulais bowler has remained typically philosophical about it all. “Yes, it was a big disappointment to miss out on the Lions squad, especially as they were heading to Australia at the same time as the Ashes tour,” admitted Harris. “Personally, I don’t think I could have done much more. But you have got to respect the decisions, get your head down and continue to work hard on your game.”


And the fact that Harris has spent the winter honing his skills in the knowledge that he will be a Glamorgan player for the next three years is a huge boost to everyone involved with the Welsh county. When Jamie Dalrymple’s men cruelly missed out on promotion to the top flight of the county championship on that dramatic final day against Derbyshire, there were fears that Harris may look elsewhere to expand his already impressive CV - especially with sections of the cricketing media continuing to highlight the supposed difference between first division wickets and second division scalps.


“It was something that did come into my thoughts when I was considering the new contract, but even though a lot has been made about the wickets being of a higher standard in the first division, I am not too sure,” added Harris. “There were some fantastic players in the second division last summer, people like Mark Ramprakash with Surrey, Owais Shah at Middlesex and of course, Kevin Pietersen at the back end of the season.”


“Those wickets are as good as any. Last summer I didn’t want the contract issue to interfere with my cricket so I made a point of putting it back until the end of the season. Obviously it was a bitter blow to miss out on going up, especially as we had looked as if we were going to do it until probably that last day. But I spoke to a lot of people about it and their thoughts were that I need to play as much cricket as possible and at the moment it is great that I am playing a big part in this team.”


It is easy to forget that it was only three years ago that Harris burst onto the county scene in what seemed a one- man mission to rewrite the first-class record books. His twelve wickets against Gloucestershire at Bristol saw him become the youngest bowler in championship history to bag a ten-wicket haul in a match and he quickly followed that up with a career-best 87 not out at St Helen’s.


At the time, former Glamorgan skipper Steve James compared the teenage talent to South African great Shaun Pollock in a ‘scouting report’ for The Daily Telegraph newspaper. “Comparisons with the upright, economical action of a young Shaun Pollock are not fanciful,” wrote James. “Like Pollock he is not a stroppy sledger, but he is still aggressive enough for the former Glamorgan batsman Tony Cottey to have been impressed when, as a 14-year-old, Harris offered some words of advice in a club match. His team-mates speak in awe of his level- headedness. He behaves as if he has been playing first-class cricket for years, quietly sitting in his corner of the dressing room but always speaking with sense and assuredness when prompted.”


That level-headedness remains - not for him a rapid-fire outburst on social-networking sites. Instead, Harris is aiming to keep his selection blasts to that 22-yard strip out in the middle. Last year, he became the youngest bowler to reach 100 first-class wickets for the county and was duly rewarded by becoming the youngest player to receive his county cap. Across the country, only two players - Nottinghamshire’s Andre Adams (68) and Glouces- tershire’s Gemaal Hussain (67) - took more Championship wickets.


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“To be the third highest wicket-taker in the Championship last summer was absolutely fantastic,” he added. “Be- fore the season starts you set yourself targets of 50 wickets, but to exceed that by so much, especially as I missed a couple of games as well, was great for me. “If I can do the same this season I will be delighted and hopefully I can keep knocking on the door.”


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