As the 2007 county season approaches, we will be compiling a list of six men to watch; not necessarily the finest players, but those with particularly significant and interesting seasons ahead.
Steve Harmison (Durham)
After Steve Harmison’s gruesome Ashes tour, he can no longer be considered an automatic Test match selection. On bouncy tracks, like Old Trafford last season, he remains a huge threat. But, since his golden seven months in 2004, Harmison has let England down too often.
Last year, if his 11 wickets at Old Trafford are excluded, Harmison’s average was a pathetic 53. He has all the raw attributes to be a genuine great, but, as epitomised by his ODI retirement just prior to the World Cup, too often seems to lack motivation. He is mentally fragile, susceptible to being targeted and often seemingly resigned to things going against him. In short, he lacks the never-say-die attitude which is a hallmark of many fast-bowling greats.
At 28, Harmison’s career has reached a decisive phase. Should he start the season badly, it is perfectly conceivable England’s Test selectors will have had enough of the enigma. But his dire Ashes series should be notice enough to Harmison that he has many people to convince.
With Simon Jones returning and Liam Plunkett and Stuart Broad exciting many experts, English pace bowling competition will be fierce this summer. On raw ability, Harmison is England’s best fast bowler. But he will need some hostile displays for his beloved Durham to convince the sceptics that he is still worthy of a Test spot.