Harmison senses Aussie frailties
Steve Harmison followed up his hostile performance for England Lions at Worcester on Wednesday by questioning the mental resolve of the Australian tourists, whom he believes are the least confident squad he has encountered in four Ashes campaigns.
"This is my fourth time against Australia and the one thing I picked up on the day before the game is that they are not as brash and confident as they normally are," Harmison told reporters at the close. "I can't put my finger on it. Maybe it is to do with the side gelling together or whether they don't have the big players of recent years, and the confidence you get from that."
Harmison has himself suffered from crises of confidence in past Ashes series, notably at Lilac Hill on his maiden tour in 2002-03, when he bowled 16 wides including seven in his first over alone, and then at Brisbane in the first Test four years later, when his first delivery of the match landed in the hands of Andrew Flintoff at second slip.
But at New Road on Wednesday, he rediscovered the pace, bounce and aggression that made him one of the stars of the 2005 campaign, as he picked up figures of 3 for 67 in 22 overs, and landed a glancing blow on the helmet of Australia's young star, Phil Hughes, whom he later dismissed for 7.
"They don't seem to be the confident Australia I've known," said Harmison. "I think there is only Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee who have played more Ashes Tests than myself in the two squads. There are things you pick up on like body language. I've seen a little chink there. It is understandable because there are not the players in their side from bygone years.
"There is definitely something to work on for England and, if we can bat well, we have half a chance to win the Ashes back."
England's selectors are set to announce the squad for the first Test on Sunday, and though Harmison himself admits he is unlikely to be involved from the start, his desperation to play for England again was apparent in his performance, and on Thursday morning he was understood to have had a long chat with the national selector, Geoff Miller.
"They've seen I want to play and can cause Australia problems. It is up to them whether they want to pick me or not," said Harmison. "I probably would not play at Cardiff. That would be a pleasant surprise. All the talk is of playing two spinners down there. But if the chance came, I would jump at it. I'd love to play. I'm desperate to play for England.
"I couldn't be disappointed about not being in the 16-man performance squad because the way England have bowled in recent Tests. I didn't fit in. Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan have bowled well, and been the pick-out bowlers at the start of the summer, Ryan Sidebottom is fit, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are bowling well enough and Freddie [Flintoff] is back fit.
"But I want to play for England - and the day I stop wanting to play for England is the day I tell them that I've had enough.