Harmison warms to the task
Steve Harmison says England's marathon stint in the field could be ideal preparation for the Test series against West Indies.
Last Updated: 30/01/09 10:57pm
Steve Harmison is hoping England's marathon stint in the field during their final warm-up match will stand him in good stead for the four-Test series against West Indies, starting in Jamaica on Wednesday.
The Durham paceman, who starred in the Caribbean five years ago, was made to toil as West Indies A piled up 574-8 declared at Warner Park, St Kitts.
A flat pitch combined with majestic batting from Lendl Simmons, who hit a career-best 282, meant England bowled until shortly after tea on the second day of three.
"With tours getting shorter, that was the perfect exercise," reckoned Harmison, who finished with 4-101 from 25.5 overs.
"You do not have as many warm-up games, so to have 150 overs has probably done us the world of good."
Just under a year ago, Harmison began the tour of New Zealand lacking match fitness, and admits he was struggling physically in India before Christmas.
"From my point of view, I am in a better shape than I was in India," he revealed.
"I went home at Christmas and knew I wasn't fit enough in India - I was fit but not fit enough to get through it - and worked hard for three-and-a-half weeks.
"My wife will vouch for that because I spent a lot of time in the gym, out of the way.
"I lost a bit of weight and turned a lot of body fat into muscle, which I am happy with.
"I feel as though I am a lot stronger - I might not have been able to bowl 26 overs before Christmas.
"I had a long summer - I don't want to make excuses here - then went straight on to Antigua and then on to India.
"I would say I was quite tired when I got to India and didn't feel I was fit enough to get through a long, hard tour, playing both forms of the game.
"It is a difficult balance to strike: Dale Benkenstein at Durham told me he would rather me get injured bowling too much than not bowling enough.
"That works for me because if I don't bowl enough it leads to loss of confidence or loss of form and I don't perform to my best."
Harmison is currently on the outside of the Test team, having been dropped for December's match in Mohali.
But he is in the frame for a recall at Sabina Park, a venue at which he claimed 7-12 to set up victory on England's 2004 tour.
"When the ball started moving off the straight it was a different game," said Harmison, after England got the ball to reverse swing.
"We tried for our lives yesterday to get it going and we couldn't do it at all.
"For some reason it just wouldn't reverse but it did today.
"There are questions I have still not answered pace-wise on this pitch.
"It just seemed the harder I hit the wicket, the slower it came off.
"For a few other people, who were a bit more skiddy, it was going through. "It is difficult when you are seeing the keeper taking it low down in front of him!"