Is the Steve Harmison Ashes Omission Completely Round the Bend?
I tuned in with interest last night (Australian time) to the first day of the tour match between the English Lions and the Aussies. What an odd encounter. From what I could understand, it is a bunch of English hopefuls and has-beens, versus a kind of quasi-Australian XI. No doubt the Aussies are using it for warm-up, and as a selection-aid, to finally decide on their bowling line-up for the first test. But what of the English Lions team?
There were a bunch of names in the Lions squad I wasn’t familiar with, and that gave me the idea that this team was something similar to the Australian A sides of the 80’s and 90’s. But amongst this bunch of youngsters, there were some (very) old hats. Names such as Vikrim Solanki, who last played for England in 2006, Saj Mahmood, last played 2007, and Ian Bell, who has been usurped in the England number 3 spot by Ravi Bopara. So it seems that this Lions team is somewhat of a melting pot of new talent hoping to be recognized, and past players, hoping to be re-discovered.
However, the most interesting player to watch in the first days play was none other than Steve ‘First Ball to Second Slip’ Harmison. Now, I must admit I haven’t kept very close watch on Harmison and wasn’t entirely sure why he had fallen out of favour with the English selectors. I guess I figured that the English team is generally fairly good at turning over players, so he was another to slip through that ever-revolving door. But, watching him steam in and cause havoc against the Australian openers yesterday was a sight to behold. The very first ball he smashed Phil Hughes in the head, and not long after had him out to a fierce bouncer. He went on to take 3 wickets for sixty-odd, and I thought was just about the pick of the bowlers.
So, the question must be asked…why isn’t he in the Ashes squad?!? The man has over 200 test wickets, and seems to me to be as fearsome as he was back in 2005. Sure, his tour of Australia in 2006/7 wasn’t flash hot, but he is still a bowler that stands out from the rest. Too often selectors pick bowlers that are very similar. Harmison provides something very different. His height and pace can really worry batsmen, and I think that he is very useful when the ball is older and the swing has diminished.
I have written on this site before that Australia should leave Brett Lee behind and focus on youth. But I think the situation is different with Harmison. For one he is a few years younger, and therefore still provides a mid-term option for the team. But more importantly, Harmison still possesses his greatest skill, the fast rising bouncer, whilst Lee has seemingly lost his pace, which was his main weapon.
In the commentary yesterday Nasser Hussain asked how many wickets it would take for Harmison to be selected in the squad. The answer was seven in an innings. Whether it was staged jokingly or not, the answer is ridiculous. If Harmison is fit, and still has his fire, which is seemingly the case, then he should be picked. I don’t think there would be another fast bowler that the Aussies would be more worried about on day one than the big Durham quick.
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