James Harris: Welsh bowler still dreams of England cap

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James Harris: Welsh seamer still harbours England ambition

Welsh bowler James Harris says he has not given up on his dream of playing for England.

The Middlesex seamer was last named in an England squad in 2013, but has never started.

"My England ambitions are still there and I always said as soon as they weren't, I would stop playing," said the 27-year-old.

"That has always been the big goal and the big driver."

Harris has started the 2018 season well with 13 wickets in his opening two matches at an average of under 10 and a batting return of 149 runs at an average of 74.

He will miss the chance though to play against his old side Glamorgan as he recovers from a minor side strain.

England Lions regular

After making his England Lions debut in 2009 as a teenager, Harris became a second string regular.

The former Glamorgan bowler received a call to the senior squad for the T20 series in India in 2012 and one-day international squad in New Zealand in February 2013.

Harris was not selected to start a match and that is the closest he has come with Simon Jones the last Welsh cricketer to play for England in 2005.

"I got close just before I joined Middlesex," said Harris.

"I came home and played my first game for them and injured my hamstring trying to impress.

"I haven't quite got close to getting back to that position again, but it's always something you work towards.

"I like to think I still have a chance, I have plenty of years left to play.

"If I can keep performing there is no reason why I can't find myself with an England cap one day."

Teenage prodigy

James Harris
James Harris took nine wickets and scored a crucial 46 not out in Middlesex's first match of 2018 against Northamptonshire

It is hard to believe Harris will not be 28 until next month because he was a teenage prodigy.

After making his debut aged 16 in May 2006, Harris became the first 17-year-old to take a seven-wicket haul in the Championship a few weeks later.

"It is quite scary to say this is my 12th season as a first-class cricketer and it seems to have flown by," said Harris.

After joining from Glamorgan in 2012, Harris' future remains with Middlesex after signing a new contract keeping him at Lord's until 2020.

He has taken 159 wickets in 50 first-class appearances after a slow start which has included loan spells with Glamorgan and Kent.

His first two summers saw him make just seven championship appearances with 12 wickets.

He roared back in 2015 with Division One wickets at 25.74 as he spearheaded Middlesex's surge to runners-up, including a career-best nine for 34 against Durham at Lord's.

Harris played seven times in Middlesex's County Championship triumph in 2016, contributing 16 wickets and he has always battled for first-team places with Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones, Steve Finn and James Franklin.

"I feel settled here," said Harris.

"It's my sixth summer and I have signed up for a few more.

"It has been tough at times because you have to be playing your best just to get in the team as we have a big squad of fast bowlers.

"I have had some good summers and a few times where I have lost my place and not been able to force anyone out because they have been doing well.

"It has been frustrating at times because you want to play every week.

"When you are not picked it's tough but forces you to get better and not rest on your laurels."

Playing home games at Lord's also helps a player want to stay at Middlesex.

"It is a special historical place and you feel lucky every time you walk into the ground," said Harris.

"To be able to drive through the Grace Gates and play home matches here, watch from the balcony and walk through the Long Room onto the field is amazing.

"When I joined, I worried I would take it for granted and it would lose its aura.

"But nothing beats this place."

James Harris celebrates taking a wicket
James Harris made his county championship debut for Glamorgan in 2007

Good start

Harris has been an automatic pick this season and took nine wickets in the opening victory over Northamptonshire before batting for almost four hours for an undefeated 64 before defeat against Derbyshire.

"Things have gone well," said Harris.

"To do my job with the ball and get some wickets has been lovely and encouraging for the rest of the season.

"I have also managed to get some runs.

"That was important because I am batting at seven now and that's a huge role for the team to be able to field five proper bowlers.

"I have always seen myself as a proper batsman so to be given the opportunity is great but I need to make that work."

Harris only bowled six overs in the second innings at Derby following a side strain which ruled him out of facing Glamorgan the Division Two match starting on Friday, 27 April.

The last time the two sides met in the Championship at Lord's in 2011, Harris played a starring role for Glamorgan with eight match wickets against a Middlesex batting order including Andrew Strauss, Chris Rogers and Dawid Malan.