Posts Tagged ‘harmison’

Relaxed Harmison delivers the goods

August 7, 2008

Steve Harmison bounded back into Test cricket with a performance that, by his own admission, was his best for more than a year, as England belatedly demonstrated the full range of their firepower on the first day of the fourth Test at The Oval. By the close they had bowled South Africa out for 194 and responded with a scoreline of 49 for 1, an effort that enabled Kevin Pietersen to ease himself into his new role as England captain.

England’s leading wicket-taker on the day was James Anderson, whose three-wicket haul included his 100th in Tests, but Harmison was the star of the show. His first over included a first-ball dropped catch and a split lip for his own wicketkeeper, Tim Ambrose, and he later followed that up with two wickets in two balls, including a 92.9mph yorker to demolish Hashim Amla’s middle stump.

Harmison’s performance was a throwback to his glory years of 2004 and 2005, and defied the predictions that had followed his limp display at Hamilton back in March, after which he was banished from the side for eight consecutive games. While most observers felt at the time that he would never play for England again, Harmison was not among that number, and he admitted that the buzz of playing for his country was something that he had missed during his exile.

Much of Harmison’s renewed vigour comes from a lengthy stint in county cricket with Durham, where he has finally enjoyed regular outings with upwards of 500 overs under his belt already this season, including 43 wickets from nine Championship fixtures. It is the most he has bowled in years – under Duncan Fletcher, England’s pacemen were routinely rested between internationals, while his 2007 season was interrupted by a hernia operation that ruled him out of the second half of the summer.

Perhaps more important than the rhythm that he has picked up, however, has been the break from the spotlight, and the chance to groove his action without the pressure to perform that comes when the cameras are watching your every move.

The break from the front line worked wonders for Harmison on this first day back. He was entrusted with the new ball by his new captain, Pietersen, and responded with a first over that set the tone for the day.

It is, however, a moot point whether Harmison can follow this first-day performance with the sort of sustained aggression that once made him the most feared bowler in the world. Nevertheless, the signs are good from a player whose body language is a window to his soul.

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi

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Harmison back in England squad

August 6, 2008

evin Pietersen has unveiled an attacking line-up for his first match as England captain, against South Africa at The Oval, with two key changes from the side that lost the third Test, and the series, at Edgbaston last week.

As widely predicted, Steve Harmison returns for his first outing since the defeat against New Zealand at Hamilton in March, as a replacement for Ryan Sidebottom who was noticeably off the pace in the last match after missing the second Test with a back injury.

Also recalled is Stuart Broad, who had been expected to miss out to give Ravi Bopara his second chance to cement a role as a Test batsman, after a torrid debut series in Sri Lanka in December. Instead, Broad’s prowess with the bat has been acknowledged, and he will slot into a potent lower-middle order which begins with Andrew Flintoff moving up one position to No. 6.

Following Michael Vaughan’s resignation and withdrawal from this Test, Ian Bell moves up from No. 5 to the No. 3 position that he has long coveted, with Paul Collingwood – England’s centurion at Edgbaston – reverting to his former position at No. 5.

After the rumours about his strained relationship with Moores, Pietersen was keen to emphasise how much co-operation had gone on between the two men in the selection of the side, although it was left to the coach to inform Bopara of his omission. But once the team takes the field at The Oval on Thursday morning, there’s no question who is going to be in charge.

For all his bravado, there are several aspects of the leadership that will still be a mystery to Pietersen come Thursday morning. He had put little thought to where he himself will be fielding, for instance, and though he was looking forward with pride to the moment he walks out to toss up with Graeme Smith, he admitted that he has little idea about how to read a pitch.

“It’s something I will definitely have to improve on,” he said. “I’ve always believed that if you win the toss and you want to bat, you bat. If you don’t think you’re sure, you still bat, and if you’re really not sure, you think for ten seconds then you still bat again. That’s what I’ve been told, but I’ve never been a captain in a Test match.”

All that is about to change, as England prepare to launch their new era. “It hasn’t really sunk in properly yet, but I’ve got to do the simple things right,” said Pietersen. “I’ve been under pressure ever since I came to England eight years ago, but I know what a great honour this is, and I’m going to give it a real good go. If I make a success of it, I make a success of it, but if I don’t I’ll be man enough to know I’ve got to go back and bat.”

England

1 Andrew Strauss

2 Alastair Cook

3 Ian Bell

4 Kevin Pietersen (capt)

5 Paul Collingwood

6 Andrew Flintoff

7 Tim Ambrose (wk)

8 Stuart Broad

9 Steve Harmison

10 James Anderson

11 Monty Panesar

– About Cricket –

Sandesh Kumar Jaggi