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Harmison raring to take on the Aussies

Last updated on: October 20, 2006 10:45 IST

Stephen Harmison is an indictment on England's one-day form of late.

One of the leading Test bowlers in the world currently, Harmison has an ordinary ODI record. Having played only 45 one-day internationals in a career spanning more than four years, the tall paceman has found it difficult to adapt to the shorter version of the game. The steep bounce has rarely troubled batsmen; somehow, the Durham bowler seems to lose the edge when the scales are so tilted in the batsman's favour in the shorter version.

Similarly, England, the second-best team in the world, has not won an ODI series for the past two years; except for a 1-0 win over Ireland in June.

Against Sri Lanka this year, England were thrashed 5-0, with the Lankans making a mockery of the English bowlers in the fifth match. Harmison went for 97 runs in that match at Leeds as Sri Lanka overcame a target of 322 in the 38th over, losing only two wickets during the chase.

Harmison has been an essential part of the England squad, which has made conscious measured steps towards developing a superb Test team but somehow seems to lose their enthusiasm when it comes to the one-day format.

Even now, participating in the ICC Champions Trophy, Harmison admits he has one eye on the Ashes series, starting in November.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn't," the 27-year-old said in Jaipur on Thursday, ahead of England's clash against Australia on the weekend.

"Everybody's got one eye on the Ashes; you have as well. Everybody's looking ahead to the big occasion.

"But we're here to do a job, here to win a competition and if there's anymore spice into it then whoever loses on Saturday goes out. I'd be lying to say we haven't got one eye on Australia on 23rd November but we need to win this game to go forward in this competition.

Harmison agrees that England's one-day results haven't been up to scratch, but the team is now building towards the World Cup in the West Indies, in six month's time.

"We are probably a settled side in Tests. We've played well, won the Ashes with 12 men. Played two forms of one-day cricket last year, not sure how many players we used. We had a blend of experience and youth.

"But at the end of the day, we're gearing towards the World Cup so, hopefully, we have a settled side to prepare for that."

Australia have to beat England to stay in the competition; and facing the cornered world champions will be a task for the latter. But Harmison believes that England have the experience of the Jaipur wicket and conditions better that their rivals.

"I think it would be a slight advantage if we play on the same wicket. Aus haven't played on it but at the end of the day they're good players and they can adapt to any surface. So it's just a slight advantage."

The start has not been ideal for Harsmison in the tournament. The bowler began with a big wide down the leg-side to Virender Sehwag in the first match against India. On Thursday, he also said he is finding it difficult to grip the ball early on but he is ready to bowl with either the new or old ball.

"I've bowled a few of them before, and just slipped down leg side after that. I felt confident and content the way I came back after that. I bowled a couple of pitched up balls which obviously Sachin [Tendulkar] got through midwicket, but I came back with five overs for 15. I was probably trying too hard.

"A brand new white ball is a bit difficult to grip but that's my job. I've got to come over that and combat that. I haven't done it well in the last 6-7 months, but I've been working hard in the last 3-4 days to try and do that. I'm confident that I'm pretty close to doing that.

"At the end of the day, I wasn't sure what was happening, wasn't sure of the plans. Because we had a small total to defend, I bowled up front. But I've to wait and see what happens on Saturday."

Deepti Patwardhan in Jaipur