Fast, and not so fast, bowlers

There’s been more ink and bytes spilled on the Steve Harmison issue then any other English player in the last week or so then I can remember. Given that so many English hopes rested on his shoulders, that is understandable.

Jagadish crunches some numbers on Harmison. Meanwhile, his fellow fast bowlers escape scrutiny.

England’s other bowlers deserve some stick as well. Matthew Hoggard is an honest toiler, but he will struggle in Australian conditions. The lack of reverse swing has gone a long way to de-fang him. And, let me make it clear, it would have de-fanged Simon Jones as well, if he had been here. There might have been a few less half volleys, but it is wishful thinking to think that England’s attack would be much more dangerous with Jones about. At best, he might have stemmed the tide.

Since Jones is not around, England called upon two younger sorts. Jimmy Anderson got the nod at Brisbane, and he was mediocre. His bowling figures reflect that too. He was not able to bowl a consistent line or length to develop any pressure on the batsmen and Australia’s batsmen just waited for the bad balls and picked him off.

And there’s no excuse for that- his performance was barely worthy of first class cricket. Anderson needs to stop worrying about his hair product, get a copy of his Brisbane pitchmap, and get his arse in the nets and start working.

He certainly doesn’t deserve a place in the Adelaide Test but he might get it; the only other pace alternative is Sajid Mahmood. I saw Mahmood in the first game of the tour against the Prime Minister’s XI, and he was even worse then Anderson. If England seriously bring him into the XI for Adelaide, it will be Christmas come early for the Australian batsman.

Much more likely is the introduction of Monty Panesar. I’ve not seen him bowl except for highlights, but everyone that has seen him was surprised that he wasn’t included at the Gabba. From what I can tell, England’s best option is to include both spinners, and rely on Flintoff to attack with short sharp bursts, including the new ball.

Giles is not regarded as a serious wicket-taking options, but he does have the merit of keeping it tight. That is a handy virtue to have while Panesar is attacking at the other end. It is a huge ask to Panesar on Ashes debut, but England’s bowling plight is desperate, and there’s nothing else for it.

Anyway, that’s my take. Tim de Lisle has his take here. What’s your take?

All very football

Whilst England’s summer is now over, the domestic leagues still have a few more matches left to play. In fact, play will continue as far as September 24th, with the new Pro40 playoff to decide whether there will be a third team relegated.

Interestingly, it seems that two of England’s names on the injury list may yet still get a last first-class game this season. Lacking the necessary match fitness to feature in the battle for a place in the last round of the County Championship, with Durham and Lancashire facing competitive matches, Duncan Fletcher has suggested that Liam Plunkett and Jimmy Anderson might well make use of the county loan system.

Not one of the most well known of contract loopholes, the idea was introduced by the ECB in the pre-season of 2005 to allow more England-qualified talent to emerge. Similar to the loan rules that govern football, domestic players may sign for a short period with another county, though they may be recalled at any time if guaranteed first team cricket by their own county. Fletcher hopes that the pair may be able to take the field for counties playing dead-rubber matches, possibly in an attempt to ready them for potential spots on the Ashes tour.