England vs. Australia: Why Harmison Should Have Played The First Test
One of the main talking points before this 2009 Ashes series was whether or not the team of Andrew Strauss/Andy Flower as a captain and manager would make the right decisions in the series. Now so far we're only 4 days into the first test match which from the looks of it should (providing Australia bowl well) mean bad news for England.
The fact of the matter is if they manage to scramble a draw out of this game, in many people's eyes its a draw that they don’t deserve. I’m not having a go at the batsman who im sure if offered the 430 odd they got would have taken it. Kevin Pietersen himself said this at the end of the first days play when the Sky interviewer asked him whether the team were happy with their total at the end of the first day when they were on 336-7.
England's batsman although no hundreds had scored a good total on a good pitch and had fought well with the tail - something which in my memory has only happened in 1 Ashes series in recent clashes the 2005 Ashes. Swann, Broad and Anderson all batted well and after getting that 430 odd I was hopeful that at the very least we'd only be around 50-70 runs behind on first innings.
How wrong i was. Australia have batted very sensibly and have played all the bowlers well. The two spinners have got 1 wicket between them, they may have bowled some good over’s but they have been unable to get the wickets they should have warranted due to brilliant batting. I had a feeling Ponting would score a big 100 when he got to about 20-30 runs looking in great form.
By the start of the fourth day with England's chances of a wicket looking nowhere 630 plus was always was on the cards. Haddin and Marcus North batted brilliantly although they never came under pressure due to some poor captaincy from Strauss who made some poor errors. I didn’t agree with him having Broad open the bowling attack this morning. Broad may be a fine prospect but he's a first change bowler. Flintoff should have opened the attack or even one of the spinners.
Cut a long post short. Australia have got their tactics right. Even if they would have had a second spinner on the tour, they wouldn't have played him here because they have the variety in the attack. When the ball dosn't swing for Anderson and doesn’t seam for Broad they are easy to handle for world class batsman. What England have lacked in their bowling is someone different.
I’m not Harmison's biggest fan (in fact i have been very critical of him in recent years) but after his good showing in the Lions game at Worcester, its obvious that he would have made a difference to England's bowling. Yes his spirit isn't always there and hasn't been there overseas. However he has the ability to work a batsman out and has the pace as well, he's bowled well in the County championship this year.
I’m not saying that he would have got 5 wickets and put England in a match-winning position but the fact is England need to start this Ashes series well. Not by scrambling a draw by surviving the final day. Yes the pitch may not have helped but we needed to get in the faces of the Australian batsman. Harmison would have done that. By playing the 2 spinners without the brute of a Harmison the batsman were relaxed against them and were under very little pressure down the other end.
Common sense should prevail in the second test at Lords when Harmison should come in for the team instead of Panesar at Lords. Swann has bowled well since coming into the team and is mentally a strong cricketer, so deserves to at least bowl in that match. Harmison's selection at Lords might be tough on Graham Onions who is a solid cricketer but he is not someone Australia will be wary of. Harmison is.
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