The return of Steve Harmison

This Natwest Series was touted as a potential whitewash for Australia. Ponting reckoned the schedule worked in his side’s favour but, as we now know, this hasn’t been the case. The “warm up” games of the summer have given every cricket fan every reason to expect that this will be one of the greatest summers of cricket in years.

And from an English perspective, the return of Steve Harmison has been revelatory. I was confused & concerned about his performances in South Africa, and critical not only of him but of the media’s reaction. I even have a £50 bet with a mate that he wouldn’t “come good” for The Ashes. I’m already scraping the coppers to find that 50 quid – Harmison is edging his way back to his best, and I hope (not just for Englishmen) everyone will witness why he has been so highly regarded in the past 2 years.

Steve Harmison

Indeed, Him (for that is Glenn’s new name, and is deliberately gramatically incorrect!) has praised Harmison this morning:

“Harmy is a class bowler and I think he’s one of the main reasons why England have improved over the last 18 months,” said McGrath.

“To have a bowler bowling at that pace with that lift has got to give the rest of the team confidence.”

McGrath is well known for his (successful) targetting of opposition batsmen, but perhaps less renowned for his generous praise of a fellow bowler. Harmison comfortably topped the series with 15 wickets in 6 games (at 15 a piece) and with a devastating strike-rate of just 22. Flintoff was second with 12 wickets and, surprisingly, Bradley Hogg third with 10.

His control & lines have been immaculate and, encouragingly, he keeps getting the best opposition batsmen out. Yesterday was a perfect example. He was arguably lucky to have Ponting caught behind (down the leg-side), but it simply demonstrated how quickly he has forced his authority over Ponting. I said recently that he’ll pick up Ponting a few times in The Ashes, and I stand by it. Time for England to attack an opposition captain, and despite Ponting’s class he is showing clear technical failings.

Martyn fell next to a stunning delivery – angling in, but cutting away…a 90mph leg-break. Then Brad Hogg – who tops my list for Most Irritating Player in the series) – “fended” a lethal ball which threated to decapitate him. This was “the old” Harmison, of not too long ago. But for Englishmen, and fast-bowling fans, the wait has been concerning. He was so poor in South Africa that many, me included, wondered HOW he could ever come back. But he’s on his way now, and if he continues to improve it could be fun to watch.

He and Flintoff have leap-frogged Jason Gillespie into the top 10 of the LG Bowler rankings (8 and 9 respectively).

Stu rounds up yesterday and reckons the Aussies are in for a scrap this summer

Scott questions Ponting’s cricketing brain

Isaac got a bit excited about the final

AKR can’t beleive he missed it

Darryl echoes many of our thoughts about the battles which lie ahead.

I’ll do a newspaper roundup after the Wimbledon final

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