Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Ashes Can Be Ours says Harmison

Rejuvenated England paceman Steve Harmison says he is concentrating on the 2009 Ashes series despite the huge amount of money on offer in the Stanford 20/20 (the winner-takes-all match on November 1 against the Stanford Superstars). The $1 million per man on offer for the winner of the Stanford match is the biggest individual team prize in the history of sport!

"This is going to be an exciting and intense 12 months of cricket and I cannot wait. People will go on about the Stanford series and the money that is on offer, but every single Englishman knows the Ashes series against Australia is the one to really win," said the Durham and England fast bowler. "The money on offer for the Stanford tournament is a lot, but you've got to win it first. We are going out there to represent our country, just as we will do in India and the West Indies this winter."

Harmison defended himself from critics who said he returned to England's limited-overs side for the Stanford millions. "I think we will get a certain amount of stick about playing in the Stanford games, but it was the ECB who organised it, not the players," he said. "We'll get stick if we win and we'll get stick if we lose. I even offered not to play because I knew people would say I've only started playing one-day cricket again for England because of the money, but that wasn't the case."

As far as I'm concerned, if Harmison delivers and performs as he did in the final test and one day matches against South Africa then he should play, if on the other hand he returns to the Steve Harmison that had been playing for the past two years (which led to his eventual overdue dropping from the team) then he should be dropped immediately as England had to carry him the last time.

Harmison said winning the Ashes next year was a "realistic goal". England won the memorable last contest on these shores, in 2005, but were demolished 5-0 in Australia in 2006-07. "I do feel I've got a bit of a score to settle. I know what it's like to win the Ashes and I know what it is like to lose the Ashes 5-0. It's the same for Andrew Flintoff, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Andrew Strauss."

"I think it can happen, I really do, but we've got a hell of a lot of cricket to play between now and then. I think we've got ten different series in the next 12 months and I'd like to play in and win them all."

Harmison forced his way back into the England fold after being dropped with a very impressive county season for Durham; he finished with 60 wickets in 12 games and Durham won their first Championship title. Harmison was recalled for the final Test against South Africa at The Oval, under new captain Kevin Pietersen (who obviously has great belief in the bowler and thinks of him in very high regard), and was later persuaded to return to the international limited-overs version of the game.

"It is a season which began with me at my lowest ebb, but it is one I will look back on with an enormous sense of satisfaction," Harmison said. "I've achieved my own personal goal of getting back into the England team and Durham have won the title, I couldn't have asked for much more. This has been a fantastic season for me, unbelievable really. We had our disappointments at Durham, losing in two semi-finals, but we kept on going."