Steve Harmison rightly received much criticism after a dire winter in which he not only bowled poorly in the Ashes but, almost unbelievably, retired from ODIs just a few months before the World Cup. His attitude was called into question for the umpteenth time. In short, many – possibly including Duncan Fletcher – had had enough of the 28-year-old enigma, so obviously richly talented but, equally, apparently too mentally frail to perform when his side needed him most.
Yet if we criticise him when he under performs it is only right to praise him when he does deliver. He has not played for England since the humiliation of the Ashes, but has made himself undroppable with some sterling performances for Durham. Critics will sneer and point out he is only playing county cricket when there is relatively little pressure on, but he has taken 24 wickets in three Division One games, a phenomenal start. Today, in tandem with Liam Plunkett, he bowled his side to victory on a relatively docile pitch, taking 5-61 and bowling 19.3 overs out of 50.3.
It must be hoped that Peter Moores acknowledges what Duncan Fletcher failed to grasp – that Harmison, more than almost any other bowler, is a man who needs overs in the middle. Could the series against the West Indies, against whom he made his name, mark the birth of a new, more consistent Harmison?