England fast bowler is returning to form November 12, 2007

Gibson praises Harmison's comeback

Cricinfo staff

Steve Harmison: A little bit rusty to start with, but improved throughout his nine-wicket haul © Getty Images
England's bowling coach, Ottis Gibson, believes Steve Harmison is working his way back to his best form after grabbing nine wickets in the first of his two outings for Highveld Lions in South Africa.

Harmison had not played a first-class match since July. He missed England's Test series against India after undergoing a hernia operation and was not initially included in the squad that sets off for Sri Lanka on Thursday. However, he seems set to earn a late call-up after taking 6 for 91 and 3 for 78 against Cape Cobras in Paarl this week.

It was not a flawless performance by any means, and Harmison was once again troubled by a spate of wides and no-balls. But he found an improved rhythm in the second innings, which pleased Gibson no end.

"First day, first innings, it was his first ball since July, so you expected probably that he wasn't going to go in at 100 per cent," said Gibson. "He's here to get back into things and he was obviously a little bit rusty for a start.

"The second innings was a lot better - he only bowled two wides as opposed to 20 - with a lot more control, and he's obviously had a lot more bowling under his belt and it showed. He bowled quite well and in pretty good areas."

Gibson was a team-mate of Harmison's at Durham this season, and has been sent to South Africa to assess his rehabilitation. "I'm feeding back information [to the selectors] all the time on how he's going, his mindset and the wickets," said Gibson. "The biggest issue is that we need him to be firing and bowling up to Test standard, but the ultimate decision isn't mine."

"I think as long as he's happy in himself that he's bowling well then obviously he's going to move on to Sri Lanka," added Gibson. "I don't think he would want to go to Sri Lanka if he didn't feel like he was ready for that. He will know whether he is ready or not."