Harmy sweating on selection
England paceman Steve Harmison hopes to feature in Jamaica, the scene of his greatest triumph five years ago.
Last Updated: 01/02/09 3:43pm
Steve Harmison is hoping for a recall to England's Test team to allow him to rekindle memories of the finest spell of his career.
The Durham paceman is sweating on his place in the starting XI for the first Test against West Indies, starting at Sabina Park on Wednesday.
On England's last visit to the Kingston venue back in March 2004, Harmison delivered a fast-bowling masterclass, taking 7-12 in the second innings to set up a 10-wicket victory for the tourists.
Having been dropped for the Mohali Test on the pre-Christmas tour of India, the 30-year-old is unsure of his place for the series opener in the Caribbean.
Selection will be tricky for new captain Andrew Strauss regardless of whether key all-rounder Andrew Flintoff overcomes a side strain - all the signs to date are positive - but Harmison helped his own cause when he turned in the best statistical performance by a paceman in the run-filled draw with West Indies A in the final warm-up fixture.
His 4-101 might not have exuded real menace but proved fair reward for perseverance on an excellent batting surface at Warner Park in St Kitts.
"I am looking forward to going back, especially if they produce a wicket like it," said Harmison. "But I don't want to count any chickens."
On his spell five years ago, he added: "I don't remember much about that day, it is a bit of a blur.
"I am not really one for watching old tapes, so I can't recall it specifically, I just have fond memories of all my Test matches even when things haven't gone well like the Ashes Test in Brisbane.
"It hasn't been a straightforward road but I can't tell you how much I love playing for my country.
"Every game delivers a whole new set of circumstances and hopefully we can repeat five years ago because we got off to a good start there last time.
"Hopefully we will do that again because we - not just me but the whole team - have got to make some advances.
"The Ashes bid starts from Wednesday morning. That is the big thing for us."
Strauss appears pleased with Harmison's physical fitness less than a year after he laboured at the start of a tour of New Zealand.
"From Harmy's point of view it was great for him to play two matches and get a lot of overs under his belt," Strauss said.
"We all know that the more Harmy bowls, the more rhythm he gets into and the quicker he gets it through as well.
"I think he got better and better each spell he bowled and he has definitely got his name in the hat.
"It was difficult to tell much from this pitch but his areas were good and his pace increased throughout."
Providing Flintoff is passed fit, England's seam bowling attack in Jamaica is likely to feature the Lancashire all-rounder and Stuart Broad alongside two of Harmison, James Anderson and Ryan Sidebottom.
"The first thing is to get back in the team because I am not in possession at the minute," admitted Harmison.
"Staying fit and taking wickets - after all I am supposed to be a wicket taker - is what will get me in.
"If I don't take wickets I am not in the team: that is why I was dropped in India, it is why I was dropped in New Zealand.
"I know I if I am not bowling up to 90 miles per hour and taking wickets there is no place for me.
"But I have always said that when I pull my boots on and walk out there, I will try my nuts off."
England's other selection dilemmas concern the number three batting position - incumbent Ian Bell looks set to be retained ahead of Owais Shah - and the identity of their spinner - Monty Panesar or Graeme Swann.