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Middlesex backing young seamers to step up after Harris loan

James Harris in action for Middlesex Panthers against Essex Eagles. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO James Harris in action for Middlesex Panthers against Essex Eagles. Pic: Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO

Ben Kosky
Thursday, July 24, 2014
8:55 AM

Middlesex have faith that their young pace bowlers will provide adequate back-up for the 50-over tournament after allowing James Harris to rejoin Glamorgan on loan.

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Harris, whose first-team opportunities have been limited this summer, is back at the Welsh county until mid-August and will miss the bulk of the Panthers’ Royal London Cup group fixtures.

That leaves Middlesex relying on the likes of Tom Helm, Harry Podmore and Gurjit Sandhu as cover in case of an injury to any of their first-choice seam trio, Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones and Steven Finn.

However, bowling coach Richard Johnson says the club are confident in the ability of their youngsters – all of whom have already featured for the senior side this season.

Twenty-year-old Helm spent a loan spell with Glamorgan earlier in the campaign and also played in Middlesex’s County Championship match at Yorkshire this week.

Podmore, also 20, has caught the eye during a number of NatWest T20 Blast appearances, while 22-year-old left-armer Sandhu has featured in the competition this season too.

“They’ve all got stacks of potential, they’re all challenging and we now feel we have three young fast bowlers who, when they’re called upon, won’t let us down,” said Johnson.

“In Helmy’s own words, he didn’t bowl as well as he could have done at Glamorgan – but from talking to them, it’s clear they were very happy with him and would have him back if he were available again.

“He’s gained a lot from the experience – he’s come back more confident that he can perform at first-team level, while equally he knows there’s more left in the tank.

“I think Helmy was a bit ahead of the other two in terms of strength and conditioning. Harry needed a good winter in the gym, as did Gurjit, so they’d be strong enough to cope with first-team cricket.

“We think Harry’s progression, in particular, has been very good this summer – you can see now he’s a lot more powerful and he’s starting to get to a stage where he can bowl fast.

“These young guys are performing very well in the second team and we rate them highly. But it still won’t be easy for them to break into the side – in August we have six 50-over games and no Championship cricket.”

Middlesex have stressed that the decision to loan Harris – who attracted interest from several counties before he moved to Lord’s at the end of the 2012 campaign – is no reflection on his performances or prospects at the club.

In fact, the former England Lions bowler has arguably been restricted by a relatively kind fixture schedule that has enabled Middlesex to keep the same seam attack for most of their four-day fixtures.

“It’s been a strange season, in a way,” Johnson added. “Normally we’ve looked to rotate throughout the season so everyone will generally get a decent number of games under his belt.

“But our three main pace bowlers have performed well all season, and that and the way the fixtures have worked out means we haven’t had to rotate them in Championship cricket.

“So we’ve been struggling to find James some cricket and he needs more than the odd T20 and second XI game.

“We have a good relationship with Glamorgan and this was the perfect opportunity for him to get some good-quality cricket.

“But there’s still a lot of cricket left after James comes back – we’ve got four Championship games one after the other in September.”

Harris cannot play for Glamorgan when they meet Middlesex in the opening Royal London Cup group match in Cardiff on Saturday, but he is eligible for all other fixtures during his month’s loan.

Middlesex, who complete their T20 campaign with games against Surrey at Lord’s on Thursday night (6.15pm) and against Somerset in Taunton the following day, can also recall the 24-year-old at any stage.

The Panthers’ first home match in the 50-over tournament takes place on Sunday, when they clash with Warwickshire at Lord’s (10.30am).

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