Harrison fired up for title tilt

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DURHAM bowler Jamie Harrison is backing the team to bring home the silverware this season.

Harrison is back in the squad for tomorrow’s County Championship clash away to Derbyshire, and is confident the visitors have what it takes to record another vital victory.

Durham go into tomorrow’s encounter sitting proudly at the top of the Division One table.

And with three games to go, including the clash with Derbyshire, who are battling against relegation, Durham lead second-placed Yorkshire (who are away to Sussex tomorrow) by 14.5 points.

It means the men from the Emirates ICG are set for a tense finale to the season as they look to reclaim the championship crown, which they won for the first time in their history in 2008, and successfully defended the following season.

But Harrison, 22, is confident that goal is well within the squad’s reach.

“The lads have had three good wins in a row, and that has given us a little bit of momentum going into the final few games,” he said.

“Hopefully, we can carry our form on, and bring the trophy back to where it belongs in the North East.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that Harrison’s opinion is tinted by the optimism of youth. But with three games to go, Durham have already equalled their previous best championship record of eight wins.

And the bowler believes things are clicking into place to ensure they beat that tally.

“I think the fact that we are all really close as a group of lads, and a group of players stands us in good stead.

“The balance between youth and experience has also been great for us on the pitch this season.

“We’ve got an extraordinary leader as a captain in Colly (Paul Collingwood), and the coaching staff are brilliant. I think everything is just gelling, and coming together at the right time.”

In terms of championship cricket, Harrison is still fairly inexperienced, but says he is not feeling any burden of expectation as title race hots up.

He added: “When you step on the pitch, obviously you want to contribute all you can to winning games for Durham, but you don’t really feel the pressure.

“As a bowler you get to your mark and look up, there’s a bloke standing in front of three stumps, and you have got to get him out, simple as.”

Derbyshire’s County Ground has not been a happy hunting ground for Durham, who have never won there in the championship.

But Harrison says that dismal record holds no fear for the visitors going into tomorrow’s game.

He said: “We are confident in our skills and our preparations, that when we turn up, whatever pitch is put in front of us, and whatever team, as long as we play to our ability and back ourselves we can beat anyone.

“We pride ourselves in how many match-winners we have got in this team, individuals who can literally turn a game on its head, and with the games we have left I’m sure there will plenty of match-winning performances.”

Durham will be without Ben Stokes, who is on England duty.

Durham squad: Paul Collingwood, Mark Stoneman, Keaton Jennings, Scott Borthwick, Will Smith, Michael Richardson, Phil Mustard, Usman Arshad, Mitch Claydon, Chris Rushworth, Graham Onions, Jamie Harrison, Ryan Buckley.