Harmison weighing up England future

England fast bowler Stephen Harmison says he is ready to continue his international career if selected for the upcoming tour of South Africa, but the 30-year-old Durham quick is equally prepared for the selectors telling him his time as a Test bowler is over.

Harmison found himself in the international wilderness at the start of this season but returned for the final two Tests against Australia.

On Sunday he became an Ashes winner for the second time in his career, taking three wickets for 54 runs as England won the fifth Test at the Oval by 197 runs and with it the series 2-1.

”I’ve got an idea in my mind what I want to do,” Harmison told Talksport Radio here on Monday.

”Anybody who plays for their country never wants to give it up but there is going to come a time when you have to say ‘well it’s time for me to move aside because there are other people who can do as good a job — if not a better job — as me’.

”I always believe you plan for the Ashes and for the next Ashes and I’ll sit down with [England captain] Andrew Strauss and [coach] Andrew Flower and if they want me to go to South Africa, I’ll go.

”If they are saying ‘we’re going to take this in another direction’, then I’ll gladly step aside.”

Harmison, infamous in Australia for the mammoth wide with which he started the 2006/07 Ashes series, added: ”All I am going to do is enjoy this moment because at the end of the day, I wasn’t in the side at the start of the summer and that decision probably wasn’t going to be made.

”Now I’ve forced my way back in like last year, who knows.”

England pace bowling all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who played his last Test at the Oval before an injury-induced retirement, urged close friend Harmison to keep going, saying he could become one of the country’s greatest wicket-takers.

Harmison has taken 226 wickets in 63 Tests at an average of under 32.

That puts him in tenth place among England’s list of most successful bowlers with Ian Botham (383 wickets in 102 Tests) in top spot.

Harmison bowled with something approaching his old fire Sunday and was on a hat-trick.

”I was just urging him to get the hat-trick, for me that would have been the perfect way to finish,” said Flintoff at England’s hotel on Monday.

”Whatever he decides will be the right decision but I would urge him to carry on and become one of England’s all-time leading wicket-takers.

”He could quite easily get 300 wickets and go further, but it’s up to Steve. I’d love to be at a Lord’s Test next year, sat in a box with a glass of champagne, watching the big lad charge in and get a few wickets.”

Flower said Harmison remained available for selection. ”Right at this moment, yes, but he’s getting towards that time of his career when he’s contemplating retirement.

”He’ll make that decision, but as I said we have spoken about it and I hope he carries on playing.” — AFP



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Julian Guyer
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