If there’s one thing England need more than anything else, it’s a fast bowler. If there’s one thing Steve Harmison isn’t at the moment, it’s a fast bowler.
The good news for Harmison is that nobody else is either, so all he really needs to address is that ‘at the moment’ part.
Some might say that the pitches for the recent Test series were unusually flat and that ordinarily you don’t need a fast bowler in Test cricket. We’d say the fact that the pitches were unusually flat only magnified the need for a fast bowler. Test pitches are always pretty flat.
But Harmison’s shown few signs of recovering pace and hostility over the winter, content to bowl fairly accurately at 82mph, which is hardly the point of Steve Harmison. Having run out of wrists to slap, Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss have dropped him down below an injured Ryan Sidebottom and a previously untested Amjad Khan in the pecking order.
With only two Tests before the Ashes and no chance of a recall – as that would render the kick up the arse of his dropping into yet another meaningless temporary exile – it’s impossible to see a way back for the lolloping ganglatron of mental fragility.
Yet in true English fashion, we’ve overlooked the one-dayers. England are highly likely to pick the hunchbacked spindlester for these, so he’s got a chance. While he’s widely thought to be no better than competent at one-day cricket, this overlooks the fact that by far the most influential bowling of his career took place in pyjamas.
No, not in his dreams – delete that comment and write something else. We’re referring to just prior to the 2005 Ashes in Bristol. Harmison dismissed Australia’s top four (Gilchrist, Hayden, Ponting and Martyn) to reduce Australia to 63-4 and then returned to clean bowl Mike Hussey, finishing with 5-33.
That, as much as the Lord’s bloodshedding that followed, scared the Aussie batsmen, who never fully recovered. Harmison should ask himself whether the Aussies are scared of him now. And he should answer honestly.