Double standards if Onions cannot play: Harmison

As they wait to see whether they can reunite Steve Harmison and Graham Onions for back-to-back games against County Championship top three rivals in the next ten days, Durham are at least confident they will reap the dividends of Harmison’s shortened run up.

With two more years on his contract after the current season, former England fast bowler Harmison has been persuaded the new approach will conserve energy and improve his accuracy.

Meanwhile, Durham coach Geoff Cook expects the ECB to request that Onions rests this week rather than play against Warwickshire, with whom Durham are joint second. Assuming the Warwickshire match goes the distance, they then have one day’s rest on Saturday May 28 before entertaining leaders Lancashire in another important four-day encounter.

Cook said: “Graham is still very much under England’s wing and I would be surprised if they give him the nod to play two days after finishing the England Lions match.”

Harmison feels that would be a mistake, saying: “That would be double standards. If he had taken five wickets for England Lions they would have picked him for the Test this week, so if they don’t let him play for Durham it doesn’t make sense to me.

“Personally I’d have picked him for the Test. He’s not bowling quite as well as in the past, but he’s getting there.”

Harmison recalled how he and Onions bowled Durham to victory at Edgbaston two years ago, even though a day was lost to rain on a ground which had witnessed a long succession of draws. They took 16 wickets between them in the match, with Onions taking seven for 38 in the second innings. They have since bowled together only once.

“Graham bowled unbelievably well in that match,” said Harmison. “That was when I realised he could play for England and when he also started to believe it. The work he has put in during the winter shows his desire to get back to that level.”

Harmison operated off his new run-up for the first time in the innings win at Worcester and was delighted with the way it went as he took seven wickets in the match.

“When Geoff Cook suggested it he said it could put years on my career,” he said. “I wasn’t sure about it at first, but I’ve worked on it and feel comfortable with it. I feel it helps me to stay taller at the crease and it worked a treat at Worcester.”

After missing the end of last season with an ankle problem, and then bowling only three overs with a fractured forearm in the opening match this year, this was the first time Harmison had bowled injury-free for the first team for nine months.

“After making them follow on we were in the field a long time and I’ve come out of it with a stiff side, but I’ve got three days’ rest and I’ll be fine for the next match,” he said.

Cook added: “Steve got in 30-plus overs in the game, which will stand him in good stead. He’s still a top-class bowler and the shorter run will conserve energy and help his accuracy.

“We talked about it on our pre-season trip to Dubai. He wasn’t keen, but I asked him to work on it. If it improves his accuracy it all helps in terms of not wasting energy.”

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