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England v Sri Lanka, 3rd ODI, Chester-le-Street

Harmison keen on home comfort

AFP

June 23, 2006

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Harmison: Durham's local weather man © Getty Images
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Stephen Harmison will be looking for a victory at his home ground as England bid to keep their one-day series against Sri Lanka alive on Saturday.

Harmison, along with Durham teammates Paul Collingwood and Liam Plunkett, will all be aiming to play their part at the Riverside in a match injury-hit England must win to prevent Sri Lanka taking an unbeatable 3-0 lead in the five-match ODI series.

Harmison has done well in front of his home crowd while on England duty, taking 15 wickets in Riverside Test appearances against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and also giving New Zealand a good going-over in a lost one-day international two years ago. And he said he hoped some typical north-east weather would work both in his and England's favour.

"I will be having choice of ends again and the wind will be behind me. I think it will be about 10 degrees colder, the Sri Lankans will need an extra jumper and hopefully their spinners will not be able to feel their fingers.

"People up here love supporting their team through thick and thin and I know they will back us to the finish. I also know Colly and Liam are looking forward to it - a lot of people don't get the chance to play on their home ground for England so it will be nice for the three of us to appear together on our home turf in a one-day international."

Harmison took an impressive 3 for 31 at The Oval on Tuesday but the rest of England's largely youthful pace attack struggled as Sri Lanka cruised to a comfortable 46-run victory that saw them go 2-0 ahead. Lancashire's Sajid Mahmood bore the brunt of the tourists' assault, conceding 80 runs in seven overs.

Harmison, who once lost his run-up during an Ashes Test in Perth, insisted Mahmood, 24, would overcome his expensive spell. "You have to feel for a young bowler who goes through that experience and I know what it is like. I have been there, worn the T-shirt and sent down the wides. I am sure he will bounce back and learn from what happened - but he is not the only one.

"My performance at Lord's (where England lost the series opener by 20 runs) was below average, to put it mildly, and I felt I owed the team a good spell at The Oval."

England, without the likes of experienced pace bowlers Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones and James Anderson, all injured, have seen a new-look attack featuring Plunkett, Yorkshire's Tim Bresnan and Middlesex offspinner Jamie Dalrymple - give away a huge 44 runs in wides during the first two series matches.

But Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, gave his squad a day-off Thursday rather than send them for extra practice. "These problems at the moment are mental ones where, if you bowl a wide, your gut reaction is to worry about bowling another one.

"It is one thing if you have got 100 Test wickets and played in a few big games but if you are a 21-year-old lad performing in front of 20,000 people, the ball goes down the leg-side and you can hear the crowd murmuring, that is not going to be rectified by one extra net session."

England will hope Kevin Pietersen (knee) will be passed fit as the side search for what would only be a fourth victory in 16 one-dayers against fellow Test-playing nations.

Meanwhile chairman of selectors David Graveney said Michael Vaughan, England's regular captain, would not be rushed back for next week's final two series matches at Old Trafford and Headingley. Vaughan has not played for England for over six months because of a right knee injury but is now back playing for his county.

"There's no point Michael playing for England if he's not fit," Graveney insisted. "The last thing he should feel is that there's any added pressure on him to come back because the team are not doing very well." Vaughan hopes to be available for England's first Test against Pakistan, starting at Lord's on July 13.

Dilhara Fernando remains Sri Lanka's only current fitness doubt after the fast bowler missed The Oval match with an ankle injury. But a team spokesman said they would not know if Fernando had recovered until Friday.

© AFP

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