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Harmy back in the big time

Steve Harmison is happy to swap his role as one of the many frustrated England armchair fans for the new ball when he makes his long-awaited comeback to high-profile international cricket on Thursday.

The Durham fast bowler has become a seasoned television cricket fan during his lengthy spell on the sidelines with a shin problem, watching in frustration as England missed the chance to secure a Test series triumph against Sri Lanka.

Like thousands of other armchair watchers, Harmison has admitted to shouting at the TV as his frustration grew at England's failure to overcome Sri Lanka, who bounced back to draw the series with victory at Trent Bridge in the final Test.

But unlike those other fans, Harmison has the opportunity to influence the situation and he will return to the attack in Thursday's Twenty20 international against Sri Lanka at the Rose Bowl determined to make amends.

"I'm just looking forward to playing if it's against Sri Lanka, Pakistan or whoever I'm playing against for Durham - I just want to go out there and play a game of cricket," said Harmison, who claimed three for 58 in his first England appearance since March during their 38-run win over Ireland at Stormont yesterday.

"I've spent a bit of time on my backside watching television and shouting at the TV when England were playing Sri Lanka and now it's my turn.

"We're all good watchers, aren't we? Now I've got the chance to do what I do best and that's to bowl for England."

Having made tentative appearances for Durham this season while England struggled to convert their superiority against Sri Lanka, Harmison was understandably rusty on his return against Ireland and delivered plenty of wides during his comeback.

But he showed enough pace and hostility to suggest that given an injury-free summer, he could be a key factor in helping to lift England's fortunes in the one-day series against Sri Lanka and the Test series against Pakistan which follows.

"I was very nervous before the game against Ireland and I was a bit pumped up as well, which you could probably tell from the way the first two or three overs came out," said the 27-year-old.

"I was flying in and the ball didn't go where I wanted it to go, but I still felt if I bowled quick enough the batsmen would struggle to handle the pace as other international batsmen could.

"The only real negatives to come out of the game was the number of wides I bowled and I went for 60 runs when I should probably have only gone for 30.

"But that's life sometimes and it's the way it goes and I'll go away and look at it and come back a better bowler on Thursday."

England have been so cautious about Harmison's rehabilitation that he was withdrawn from Durham's championship match with Warwickshire last week - to the great surprise of his county - to keep him fresh for the challenges ahead.

That break enabled him to take up an invitation to fly out to Germany and watch England's opening game of the World Cup against Paraguay alongside close friend Andrew Flintoff, who has been told to rest for a month with an ankle problem.

Harmison returned from his trip to Frankfurt lifted by the passionate support for England in Germany and determined to capture that feel-good factor when he lines up for England in tomorrow evening's Twenty20 encounter.

England made the opportunity count last summer in their only previous international in this format, playing an aggressive game to beat Australia by 100 runs and set the tone for the Ashes series which followed.

This match is unlikely to generate the same interest, but Harmison said: "Last year was a bit different because it was against Australia, but it's the same situation because if you go well it takes you into the one-day series.

"It's got nowhere near the significance it had last year, but it's a new format of the game and we're going to go out and enjoy it."

Fearing the attendance would be decimated by a clash with England's next World Cup fixture against Trinidad and Tobago, Hampshire officials have arranged a big screen for fans to watch the match while the Twenty20 game has been put back to a 7.15pm start so those attending can watch both matches.

It should add to the atmosphere, but Harmison insists it will not distract his team-mates, adding: "We'll be preparing for the Twenty20 game, but we'll still be keeping tabs on the World Cup like everybody else.

"We're going to have one eye on what's going on but we'll be focussed as well on the Twenty20. We'll do out preparation and do what we have to do, but we'll still be supporting England."

England will make a late check on Lancashire seamer Glen Chapple (abdominal strain) and Durham all-rounder Paul Collingwood (strained left thigh) before naming their line-up for the Rose Bowl. Salve helices pariah inure paleoserology evangelistic?
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