James Harris: Welshman still harbours England Test match dream

By Gareth GriffithsBBC Wales Sport
James Harris celebrates taking a wicket
James Harris made limited appearances for Middlesex during their title-winning campaign in 2016

The statistic is stark. Wales has not produced an England international cricketer since Simon Jones helped win the Ashes in 2005.

The man tipped to follow in fast bowler Jones' run-up was James Harris - but this season he finds himself on loan at Division Two Kent from Middlesex, the county he joined from Glamorgan partly because he wanted to pay in Division One.

For many years it seemed a matter of when and not if seam bowler Harris would become the next Welsh international cricketer.

Harris was a prodigy, making his championship debut aged 16 in May 2007 and becoming the first 17-year-old to take a seven wicket haul in the Championship a few weeks later.

After making his England Lions debut in 2009, Harris became a regular with the second string and eventually received a call to the senior squad for the T20 series in India in 2012.

He was not selected and that's the closest Harris has come. But as he contemplates his 27th birthday next month, Harris still believes.

"I haven't ruled out a future England career," Harris told BBC Sport Wales.

Simon Jones during his Glamorgan days
Simon Jones' career with England and Glamorgan was truncated by injury

"I am only 26. I have just entered my peak as a bowler from now and about the age of 32, providing I stay in shape.

"I think I have plenty of time, it's a performer's game if I am one of the best bowlers then England will pick me.

"So I will just keep that as my focus and goal until I finish playing."

Long way back

Harris will now have to achieve the hard way, five years after he left Glamorgan for Middlesex in 2012.

The 26-year-old took 69 championship wickets in 2015, but only 16 in seven games last summer as Middlesex won the title for the first time since 1993.

This was after Harris spent six weeks of the winter in Australia with a friend as he trained where they stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation.

Harris felt he was in good rhythm but received unexpected news on the flight home from Middlesex's pre-season tour from the director of cricket Angus Fraser.

"The move came about quite quickly after our pre-season trip," explained Harris.

"Angus (Fraser) mentioned that I was unlikely to start in the championship team.

"Kent had expressed some interest in taking me on loan at the beginning of the season and it was a no-brainer to play consistent cricket.

"My long-term goals are to take a lot of wickets and force my way back into the Middlesex team.

"I want to win another championship and be a part of that. It's just important to get back to enjoying playing cricket and bowling well. "

No Glamorgan deal

Harris will spend a minimum of three championship games and the start of the One-Day cup in Canterbury, with the deal possibly being extended as he links up with former Glamorgan team-mate and now Kent bowling coach Jason Gillespie.

Just two days after Harris joined Kent, Glamorgan announced they were signing another Middlesex pace man on loan, with Harry Podmore having a second stint in Wales. So why not Harris to Glamorgan?

"I think the timing was a bit of an issue to be honest," Harris explained.

James Harris during his playing days with Glamorgan
James Harris took 204 first-class wickets during his time at Glamorgan

"I think I sorted the deal with Kent before Glamorgan indicated their interest and came and took Harry.

"I had no idea that any of the boys were injured at Glamorgan but it was only Kent that was offered.

"I would have welcomed a move to Glamorgan.

"My family are still in that part of the world and it's where I grew up.

"It is where I played at the start of my career and I'm totally in love with the place.

"But it was the timing."

Contrasting fortunes

Harris made a good start for his new county, taking six wickets and scoring valuable runs as Kent beat Gloucestershire by 334 runs.

While Harris was starring for Kent, Glamorgan were hammered by Northamptonshire inside two days in an inept innings defeat.

"It's not the ideal start but there are some good players there and it's a long summer," said Harris.

"Everyone can sometimes start slowly, it could have been because of rustiness but they are a good team with some great players and I don't doubt they will have a good summer."

Glamorgan next opponents are Worcestershire, with their director of cricket Steve Rhodes criticising the amount of non English players in the Welsh county's ranks.

Harris is the Welshman who has left Glamorgan for England to seek new pastures so what does he make of the accusation?

"It's a performer's business," said Harris.

"If you are able to sign people that you think make your squad better than go ahead.

"It's about winning games of cricket. Ideally you would like to produce your own players when possible but if that is not the option at the time, these clubs have to their best."