Reverse-swing heartens Harmison

England v West Indies

Steve Harmison & Leon Johnson

Steve Harmison had little joy against Lendl Simmons but was rewarded with four wickets later in the day

Steve Harmison hopes England’s marathon stint in the field has put him in good stead for the Test series against West Indies.

Harmison led the line the last time England toured the Caribbean five years ago, but was made to toil as West Indies A piled up 574 for eight declared at Warner Park.

But Harmison was encouraged with the manner in which the Kookaburra ball reverse-swung on the second day. The Durham fast bowler claimed three 4-101, the standout haul for the tourists.

“When the ball started moving off the straight it was a different game,” said Harmison.

“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.

Watch ECBtv's close of play report from St Kitts - featuring an exclusive interview with Steve Harmison

“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.”

Harmison was dropped for England's second Test against India in Mohali in December, but he remains in the frame for Wednesday’s opener in Jamaica.

Five years ago at Sabina Park, he was irresistible, with a spell of 7-12 setting up an England victory otherwise in the balance.

Harmison began last winter's tour of New Zealand lacking match fitness, and admits he was struggling physically in India before Christmas.

But the flat pitch in St Kitts, allied with majestic batting from Lendl Simmons, who hit a career-best 282, meant England were still bowling in the sixth session of the contest.

Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts

150 overs in the Warner Park field served its purpose for England's preparation, according to Harmison

“With tours getting shorter, that was the perfect exercise,” said Harmison.

“You do not have as many warm-up games, so to have 150 overs has probably done us the world of good.

“From my point of view, I am in a better shape than I was in India.

“My wife will vouch that 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.”

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