Thursday, 6 December 2007

Harmison must play

Realistically, Matthew Hoggard will miss the next Test; and probably the third too. Patently, England have no real choice: they simply must recall Stephen Harmison. Goodness, we all now how erratic he can be. But he the one quick Sri Lanka will genuinely fear.

After his nightmarish Ashes series, Harmison had an indifferent, though improving, series against the West Indies. Thereafter, he has mixed injuries with some blistering domestic form for both Durham and the Highveld Lions in South Africa. After his traumatic time there in 2004/05, he deserves much credit for returning there to prove his Test match readiness, taking 13 wickets in just two games. Even though his bowling was awash with wides and no-balls, perhaps his attitude has changed for the better. Reports suggest he has been terrific in the Sri Lankan nets.

James Anderson was narrowly preferred to Harmison for the Kandy Test but was awful, lacking penetration and leaking runs. Ryan Sidebottom was also disappointing, but at least he reined in the runs; after his outstanding return to international cricket, particularly during the ODIs in Sri Lanka, he doesn't deserve to be dispensed with yet. That just leaves the last place, to go to either Stuart Broad or Graeme Swann, depending on the conditions. Both would aid England's tail.

Whatever the criticisms that can be thrown at him, Harmison possesses pace and bounce, necessities for a side needing a win to draw level in the series. Were he to wilt in the last two Tests, there would be a very real case for ending his Test career. Before that, however, he must be given the chance to help his country when they have their backs to the wall on one of cricket's toughest tours. He has talked the talk. Now Harmison must walk the walk, and prove he can be a match-winner once more.


Richard Lake said...

I agree entirley Tim and wonder if teh presence of Ottis Gibson in the England set up might be the push that he needs to take his Durham form into an England match.

The conundrum even during his horrible performance against the Windies last summer was that he was taking wickets for fun for Durham. He and Hoggy were head and shoulders above any other bowler at the start of the county season, yet he went to pieces in the test matches.

If Gibson can get him to bowl for England like he bowls for Durham, then he's worth anything the ECB want to give him as a coach.

As for the fourth bowler, I'd go for Broad unless Pietersen's finger injury means he can't bowl, in which case, we could use the second spinner. Unfortunately, I believe they'll stick with the out of form Anderson.

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The Atheist said...

Sorry. Harmison is rubbish. I have a million "he has potential" and "he could perform" articles. He just never has.

I back Tremlett...shame no one else does.

By the way, I replied to your email. I don't think that address works.

Nick Gammons said...

Harmison has performed as often as he has failed and remains an excellent Test bowler when he is in form.

Mercurial talents such as his seem to draw particularly vitriolic criticism from some cricket writers, who conveniently forget the match winning performances.

The truth is that Harmison has hardly been fully fit since the Pakistan series when he ripped a strong Pakistan batting line-up apart.

Fletcher and the England coaching staff were as much to blame as Harmison for the Ashes debacle, picking him when he was clearly not match fit and had hardly bowled a ball in anger for weeks.

Anderson has always been unpredictable and posseses a poor Test record, yet he rarely attracts such fierce criticism.

If Harmison is match fit and selected lets see how he performs before writing him off yet again.

Tim said...

Atheist - I agree about Tremlett. he was terrific against India, and really did not deserve to be dropped. But he wasn't too impressive in the ODIs since; even so, he was mighty unlucky to be dropped.

I just believe we have to give Harmison these two Tests - and, if it fails, I would then be rid.

Mark said...

I agree with Tim on this. Harmison needs to be told, in no uncertain terms, that's he's in the Last Chance Saloon.

The selectors have pandered to him something rotten over the past few years, to the extent that his 'mate' Flintoff was chosen as skipper for the last Australian tour because it was felt that anyone else might have a negative effect on his performance. Harmison repaid their faith by bowling like a big girls blouse.

It's SO frustrating.