'Harmison's a class bowler': McGrath

Stephen Harmison got a rare compliment from Glenn McGrath after the NatWest Series final

Cricinfo staff

Stephen Harmison celebrates Damien Martyn's dismissal in the NatWest Series final © Getty Images
Stephen Harmison, England's outstanding bowler of the season so far, got a rare compliment from his opposite number, Australia's Glenn McGrath, after the NatWest Series final at Lord's on Saturday. Both bowlers took three wickets in the tied match, and McGrath was later full of praise for Harmison.
"I think Harmy is a class bowler," McGrath told reporters. "There's no doubt about that and I think he's one of the main reasons England have improved over the last 18 months and one of the reasons why they've been so successful. To have a bowler bowling at that pace with that lift and bounce, it's got to give the rest of the team confidence."
Harmison and Andrew Flintoff choked the Australians after they had got off to an impressive start in the final, reaching 50 in less than seven overs. Harmison, brought on only as a second-change bowler, nailed Ricky Ponting and Damien Martyn, and later added Brad Hogg to his tally, making him the highest wicket-taker of the tournament with 15.
There had been fears about Harmison losing his way in international cricket after his lackluster performances in South Africa in 2004-05, but Michael Vaughan, England's captain, was quick to defend his ace bowler. "Just because you have a couple of bad games in the winter doesn't make you a bad bowler. I thought Harmy today was, as he has been throughout the whole series, outstanding."
While McGrath was generous in his praise for Harmison, he was quick to fire a salvo against England's opening batsmen, who haven't had much success so far against Australia's new-ball attack. "If you look at these three matches, our opening bowlers have been pretty successful against [Andrew] Strauss and [Marcus] Trescothick," said McGrath. "They've been another key as to why England have played so well, setting a foundation, so that's one positive we'll take out of this series."
McGrath's partner, Brett Lee, bowled an outstanding opening spell too, nailing Strauss and Kevin Pietersen, but Lee was also pulled up for bowling a pacy swinging beamer which Trescothick barely managed to avoid. Ponting, however, clarified that a problem with the foot-hold had caused the incident.
"I had a look at where he landed, you could see where his front foot was slipping. It knocked the confidence out of him straight away. After that beamer he was holding back within himself because he just can't keep his front foot.
"It's just a really difficult thing for Brett. Someone running in that fast, bowling that fast, if you can't keep your front foot, it's going to happen every now and then. I'm not trying to defend it but if you could slow it down and have a look at his front foot you'd understand. There were no hard feelings, everyone just go on with it."