The sheer abjectness of Steve Harmison’s bowling in the ICC Champions Trophy reawakened fears England’s enigmatic bowler would not live up to his lofty billing in Australia this winter. Whatever happens down under, one thing seems certain. If England retain the urn, Harmison is likely to be a key man.
For England fans, that may now appear a terrifying thought. But they should be reassured that Australians will also be fully aware of his pace, bounce and capability to cause destruction. Only two English bowlers in the last 15 years – the misunderstood Andy Caddick and the highly erratic tearaway Devon Malcom – could conceivably have recorded 7/12 in the Carribean, as Harmison did, or 6/19 at Old Trafford, as he did this year. At his best, he has all the attributes to be the world’s best bowler.
But we all know that. And that, perhaps, is what is so infuriating about Steve Harmison. Consistency remains elusive at the age – 28 – when he should be at the peak of his powers. As against Pakistan this summer, he seemingly turns a corner only to return to his own frustrating ways. There is also the distinct suspicion that he bowls better on pitches that suit his attributes; given his personality, it is certainly not inconceivable that the Durham man thinks “this isn’t my pitch” before the first ball has even been bowled.
If that is the case, then it is Australians – rather than Englishman – who should most fear the exploits of Harmison this winter. Australia’s pitches will certainly suit his style; if all goes well, we could see a return to the Curtly Ambrose comparisons. Harmison has a tendency to drift in and out of form, so we shouldn’t necessarily be too distressed by his recent poor run. He will doubtless prove expensive in a few spells. But, in at least a few others, Australia should be given a reminder of his sporadic brilliance.
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