Stand-in skipper Harmison wishes he had lost toss

Ashington Cricket Club’s first XI stand-in skipper Steve Harmison revealed after Saturday’s seven wickets defeat against title chasing Shotley Bridge at The Spa that he wished he had lost the toss.

The former England and Durham pace bowler pointed towards the opening 12 overs of the Ashington innings as being the decisive factor in the game.

“From the coin coming down, it just wasn’t our day,” he said.

“Both Shotley skipper Peter Collingwood and myself were laughing at the toss because initially we weren’t sure what we were going to do.

“It looked a good wicket and we then said that we were going to bat first on it.

“The game centred on the first 12 overs on a wicket which did a lot and then after that it did very little.

“However, from that point – where we were 22-4 – takes some coming back and to get to 181 was credit to Jack Jessop and Daniel Grant, both of whom were fantastic.

“They both hit 50s, which would have been like hundreds on any other wicket because the surface did a bit for Stuart Graham and for the majority of the first innings.

“Hindsight is a wonderful thing and with all the rain around we probably should have bowled first – a fact which Peter (Collingwood) and myself both say now.

“I wished I had lost the toss.”

Harmison could not fault the effort from his side but felt they could have performed better.

He added: “On a good wicket which flattened out second half, the bowlers became innocuous.

“I used seven different bowlers in two to three over spells just to try and get a wicket - and the lads put great effort in although we probably could have fielded and bowled a bit better than we did.

“I thought Shotley Bridge bowled really well as a collective group.

“They stuck to their task well and when they batted on a flat wicket, have got some good players and I think the team who finish above them will win this league.”

He continued: “The young lad at the top of the order (Kieran Milburn) batted exceptionally well for an 18-year-old, and although we tried everything, you can see why Shotley get 270 to 280 on a regular basis at this ground.”

Harmison meanwhile applauded his young squad.

“This was the first time I had captained Ashington’s first XI and it was great – I enjoyed it – although I haven’t played a great deal of cricket for them over the years,” he said.

“When Greg (Williams) asked me to step in as he was unavailable, I was happy to do it.

“These young lads are doing fantastically well in this league and some of them are disappointed after today.

“I said to them they have got to remember they have just come out of the second division and it’s tough because there are some good teams in Durham.

“They have got to realise sometimes they are going to get a bad week and after you go forward you may get a step back, which isn’t always a bad thing just to bring a sense of reality back.

“Luck was another thing. They got two of the first four wickets which were dropped by the wicketkeeper but caught by slip whereas they had three inside edges and we dropped three catches which all went for four runs.”

He added: “The lads have to keep their heads up and to keep going because they did some good things as well, and the half centuries for Jessop and Grant will hopefully have given them confidence for the second half of the season which starts next week.”

He concluded: “It hasn’t been a great day but it’s a massive learning curve – you come to one of the best teams in the league and we did very well to get to 181, which is a good thing because it showed character.

“We knew we had to field and bowl out of our skins to have any chance of winning but we did not have a great deal of the rub of the green either.

“Shotley exploited the conditions well and were the better side and there are no complaints.

“They are a good outfit and if they win the league then I will be pleased for them, especially the connection I have got with Paul (Collingwood) and everyone here.”