Toothless attack needs rejuvenated Harmison
Sunday 12 July 2009
No doubt about the England bowler who has made the biggest strides during this summer's first Ashes Test. Take a bow Steve Harmison and start thinking about the possibility of a long drive south to London.
They say that so much about life is being in the right place at the right time and, while Harmison could hardly have achieved less success than fellow fast bowlers Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad and Andrew Flintoff if he had been here, an appointment with Yorkshire's batsmen at Headingley surely did him more good.
England went into this match confident they had an attack capable of taking 20 wickets. By the time Australia's first innings had gone past 600 yesterday, home supporters were starting to wonder whether captain Andrew Strauss was talking about 20 over the course of a series, rather than a single Test.
True, England would have scored plenty more than 435 themselves if one batsman after another had not decided that anything above 30 was good enough. And, yes, the pitch has been painfully slow for quick and spin bowlers alike. But this was an alarmingly flat performance from Strauss's five main bowlers and a couple of changes are likely for Lord's next Thursday.
The last time, before this trip to Wales, that England picked two spinners for a home Test was 11 years ago. Ashley Giles and Robert Croft then teamed up at Old Trafford to take on the South Africans and walked away with combined figures of one for 209 from 87 overs. Sound familiar? Oh, and the hosts hung on for a draw, nine wickets down.
It could be another 11 years before they again try the 'spin twin' ploy on British soil after Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar struggled just as much as Giles and Croft. Certainly, there will be room for only one of them at Lord's – probably Swann.
Panesar, as so often, lacked variation while Swann may well have bowled too fast in an attempt to make things happen quickly enough to deceive top-notch batsmen. That seemed to be the view of Australia's vice captain, Michael Clarke, who said that Nathan Hauritz – now a potential match-winner, if you please – bowled "a lot slower than the England spinners and that got him more turn and bounce".
Removing a spinner will create space for an extra pace man, the candidates being Harmison, Ryan Sidebottom and Graham Onions – 12th man here but already with a five-wicket haul at Lord's, against West Indies. But the selectors, due to name their squad tomorrow, may consider another bowling change on the evidence of the last couple of days.
Anderson has not sparkled while Andrew Flintoff is still feeling his way back after knee surgery. The biggest letdown, though, has been Broad, who did little with either new or old ball and lacked the menace expected of a man who roughed up Ramnaresh Sarwan earlier this season.
Mind you, a lot of bowlers in county cricket would have fancied their chances of making inroads against the generally half-hearted West Indian outfit that toured here in May. These Australians were always going to be a different proposition.
Instead of raising their game, though, England produced only one spell of consistently high quality cricket during the 12 hours or so they spent in the field – and that was when Flintoff roared in at Phillip Hughes. As for yesterday, they looked dangerously like a team going through the motions with fielding errors mounting and shoulders slumping as Australia's total rose.
Harmison, meanwhile, was taking a bagful of wickets in Yorkshire. The selectors resisted the temptation to pick Harmy for this Test and may look elsewhere for Lord's. But something has to change next week.
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