Harmison falls off pace near the end of long run

In St Kitts at the start of England's tour, Stephen Harmison voiced his worst fear. "The odd doubt does come into your mind," he said. "But hopefully it's just that wicket and not me getting old."

He was referring to his greatest asset as a fast bowler: his speed. With that comes the extreme bounce which had, from time to time, made him such an intimidating prospect. Without the first, the second becomes less potent; and without them both, terminal weakness sets in.

By dropping Harmison (pictured) from the team for the Fourth Test against West Indies, the selectors may have made a lasting judgement. The match was to be played on a fast, bouncy surface – exactly the sort on which Harmison is supposed to prosper – but still they could not bring themselves to pick him.

The pitch turned out to be much flatter than expected, or than England would have liked but, as in life, you get out of it what you put into it. Alec Bedser would have loved it not because he was fast but because of that inherent quality alone. Fidel Edwards, desperately unlucky, showed what could be done on the second morning.

This may be the end of the long road that Harmison has travelled from Ashington. For him to come back from this would take not only a tremendous effort of will but a necessity to persuade the selectors that he still possesses what they want. It would be poignant indeed if it ended for him in the West Indies, as it truly started, in Jamaica five years ago, when he took 7 for 12 and everything came together in one stunning morning.

On the eve of the match, Andrew Strauss had said there were two ways of looking at Harmison. One was that he is frustrating and you do not always get the same level of performance from him; the other is that he relies on rhythm, which does not come as easily as people think.

He might have taken the former view for this match, and it is difficult to dispel the suspicion that he will for every match to come. The bitter truth is that since the 2005 Ashes, England have carried Harmison around more in hope than expectation.

In 26 Tests over more than three years, he has taken 83 wickets – just over three per match - at an average of 37.27. Only twice, in the same Test, has he taken five wickets in an innings. He has taken a wicket every 66.72 balls. By any reading, that is not the return of a champion.

Harmison knows and yet does not know. "I have no idea, I can't put my finger on it," he said, imparting that if he could do something about it all, he would. "It does exasperate me but I try my nuts off."

The omission in Bridgetown could mean the penultimate warrior from 2005 has gone – Ashley Giles, Simon Jones and Matt-hew Hoggard all surely not returning now – leaving only Andrew Flintoff and his battered body. It is time for the attack to be rebuilt and remodelled on different lines.

Yet even as the obituaries on Harmison are prepared, it is impossible to let him drift back to Ashington forever to ply what remains of his trade for Durham. He is only 30, not old in modern sportsman's terms. And he has come back before. Importantly, there is still nobody like him.

He is a gentle soul despite his job but it has not made him quite the model pro. By his own admission he was fit, but not fit enough, in India before Christmas. His new captain said he will get fitter and with that will come more venom. This should not have happened in the organisation that Team England have, but there you are.

The hope – but by now only hope – is that Harmison can work up early season for Durham, as he did last year, and come back to frighten the Australians. It is a pleasant thought.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn