English cricket would be hard-pressed to find a more exciting sight that Stephen Harmison and Simon Jones bowling in tandem for England. No England captain in recent times has had the luxury of utilising the threat offered by two bowlers of such pace. Each has the ability to propel a ball at 95mph and they have the potential to be as hostile as any opening attack in world cricket.
The prospect of this has not been lost on the England captain, Michael Vaughan, even though he was keen to play down the partnership on the eve of his side's 10-week tour of the Caribbean. "It is exciting to have a couple of young quicks who are capable of hitting the 90mph-mark,'' Vaughan said. "Hopefully they will be able to ruffle up the West Indies batting.
"But we have to be realistic about Stephen and Simon. Stephen missed out in Sri Lanka because of an injury and we might have to give him a little bit of time to get back into it. Simon's only played one full Test and has not played international cricket for a long period. He has obviously come back well in India and I am delighted to have him around. But let's not build him up too much. He also needs time to settle back into the team.''
The ability of this pair and England's other fast bowlers to bowl with the discipline and consistency required to take wickets in the Caribbean will have a huge bearing on whether Vaughan's side retain the Wisden Trophy over the coming weeks. The West Indies will be tough opponents. They may have been heavily beaten on their recent tour of South Africa but they are a completely different outfit at home. However, this is a four-Test series that England should expect to win.
Any side containing Brian Lara, the world's leading batsman, needs to be shown respect and he leads a young and exciting batting line-up. Their weakness, amazingly, lies in the bowling. Runs for England's batsmen should be easy to come by and this is why it is crucial that Vaughan's bowlers find their form straightaway.
"We have a fantastic chance of going out there and doing very well,'' Vaughan said. "Among our experienced batting line-up and our inexperienced bowlers we have some young lads who are very exciting.
"Our preparation before the first Test will be crucial. We need to make sure we get our acclimatisation right and use the two warm-up games in the correct manner."Reuse content