Paceman gives West Indies a taste of their own medicine

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Stephen Harmison showed that if Michael Vaughan had won the toss at Trent Bridge and Chester-le-Street, he might well have spared the batsmen their blushes. He bowled a hostile first spell of seven overs, picking up the wickets of Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Dwayne Smith and, just as importantly, he upset the equilibrium of the West Indies.

Suddenly a side that has been playing with something of a swagger began to look jumpy and unsettled. Ramnaresh Sarwan pushed Harmison into the covers and called for a run, Chris Gayle was slow to start and he was thrown out by a brilliant piece of fielding by Vaughan.

With Harmison pounding in from the Football Stand End, even such an experienced player as Brian Lara was not his usual composed self. As often happens, although Harmison was the real threat, the wickets fell at the other end and James Anderson was the beneficiary. He lured Lara into a wild drive and bowled him off the inside edge before dismissing Dwayne Bravo and Ridley Jacobs, even though he was going for more than five runs an over.

It was dramatic cricket, as it always is when top-class fast bowling is on show. No one will know more about this than the West Indies, who ruled for close on 20 years from the late Sixties with their fast bowlers.

In those days it was Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Wayne Daniel, Winston Davis and the rest.

High-class fast bowling provides the coinage for success in contemporary cricket. One can only speculate and salivate at the prospect of a permanently fit Simon Jones partnering Harmison. This combination would consistently win Test series, with Anderson, Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and one or two others to lend good-quality support. Then a number of sides would be likely to receive a dose of their own medicine, and victory over Australia would become more than a distant prospect.

England's selectors showed at Headingley that they have half-learned the lessons of the previous two matches. Bits-and-pieces cricketers are all very well if they are good in one of the two major disciplines. For all his effort, Anthony McGrath cannot be the answer as a fourth bowler.

England took a risk playing only three specialist bowlers and Lancashire's Sajid Mahmood should have been given his first game in the competition. This would have meant Vaughan would only have had to find 10 rather than 20 bits-and-pieces overs.