Harmison and Jones show way for England

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The Independent Online

Michael Vaughan was right to heap praise on Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe for their gutsy and patient batting during England's victory in the second Test here yesterday. Without their 269 runs the tourists would have struggled to beat the West Indies in such a comprehensive manner.

Michael Vaughan was right to heap praise on Mark Butcher, Nasser Hussain and Graham Thorpe for their gutsy and patient batting during England's victory in the second Test here yesterday. Without their 269 runs the tourists would have struggled to beat the West Indies in such a comprehensive manner.

But to win a Test match, a side needs to take 20 wickets and concede less runs than their opponents. It sounds simple but this is all Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Jason Gillespie and Brett Lee consistently do and it is the principle reason why Australia are the number-one side in the world.

Finding match-winning bowlers is the key to any side's success and this is why England's quartet of pacemen, who have taken 36 wickets in the last two Test matches, deserve every plaudit which has, and continues to, come their way.

Before this Test series started, many predicted a high-scoring run-feast in which the bowlers were going to offer little opposition to two experienced batting line-ups.

Poor West Indian batting has played a major part in this forecast not becoming reality but the shortcomings of Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan should not take anything away from the bowling of Stephen Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff.

England's bowling in Sri Lanka before Christmas had given little cause for optimism but the addition of Harmison and Jones has given an ineffective attack some bite. Here, England have bowled as a team. They have also bowled to their strengths. When conditions have suited one member's style of bowling he has taken important wickets, and when it hasn't he has offered support to the bowler who is.

Their roles vary. Harmison and Flintoff are there to exploit any bounce a pitch has to offer, while it is hoped that Jones' aggression, and his ability to reverse-swing the old ball, will cause problems in the middle of an innings. Hoggard is used most when the new ball is swinging but he then becomes the stock bowler while the other three fire away at one end.

Jones' five wickets on Monday suggest there may be great things to come from the Welshman but Harmison has been a revelation, and the 16 wickets he has taken in the series so far are a true indication of what he is capable of. The Durham paceman could and should develop into one of the finest fast bowlers in the world.

On this tour he has helped change the course of both Test matches. In Jamaica, on a pitch offering pace and bounce, the 25-year-old was unplayable in the West Indies' second innings and this was reflected in figures of 7 for 12. Harmison's bowling took England to an emphatic victory but the tourists had little to lose on the fourth morning.

However his spell either side of lunch on the first day of the second Test highlighted how important he is to this side. When Vaughan threw the ball to his strike bowler and asked him to have a bowl at the Pavilion End, the West Indies had effortlessly made their way to 100 for 0. Harmison made an immediate impact on a flat pitch and dismissed Chris Gayle for 62. Spurred on by this success he claimed another wicket in his next over. But it was the ball that got rid of Brian Lara which would have sent shudders through the remainder of the West Indies batting line-up.

It was the perfect short ball. It kicked off a length and struck the Trinidadian on the gloves while he was attempting to protect his face. With the main man floored by a knock-out punch, the rest fell by the wayside.

In the second innings Vaughan wisely brought Harmison back into the attack as soon as Lara appeared and he trapped him plumb in front with his first delivery.

There is an element of luck to a bowler getting his loosener right on the perfect spot but Lara was in no position to defend it. The West Indies once again fell away, losing their last five wickets for just 15 runs.

The England batsmen have been tested in each innings by good, hostile bowling but they have been able to draw confidence from the fact that the West Indies have only been able to post modest first-innings scores.

England's attack will find out just how good Lara is at some stage but it is their control and treatment of him which are moulding this series. To date he has faced only 58 balls in his four visits to the crease.

Lara and Jones both escaped a ban following their misdemeanours during this Test. Mike Procter, the match referee, deemed that both offences came under a Level One breach and fined the pair 50 per cent of their match fees.

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