It’s surprising me how many people are calling for the recall to the England side of Steve Harmison following his performance in the warm-up game for England Lions. Not just the usual long-term fanboys on the Sky commentary team who used to play alongside him, plenty of fans and pundits whose opinions I very much respect seem to be thinking he’s worth a recall.
A lot of people would make the argument that he doesn’t deserve an England place after his recent dire performances in India and the West Indies, but that doesn’t interest me. All that I want to be considered when a country picks their test side is which players are most likely to win them the match. Steve Harmison, for all his supposed pace and bounce, isn’t a man I ever feel is going to take any wickets when he comes on to bowl.
Nor has the warm-up game changed my mind. The case for his inclusion has gained a dynamic of its own, and as such his quality performance against Australia has turned into an all-conquering destruction of the touring side. I’ve watched every ball Harmison has bowled in this game, and he’s not even at his best. Everyone knows what he’s like at his best- he storms in, bangs the deck hard and has top-class batsmen jumping around uncomfortably. Harmison hasn’t been like that in the past few days. His pace drops considerably as each day wears on, calling his fitness into question yet again. Two of his first-innings wickets were full deliveries that deceived batsmen due to a (not deliberate) lack of pace.
Is that what Steve “he’s got pace and bounce!” Harmison is going to do to win England back the Ashes? Deceive Aussie batsmen by actually being medium pace when they’re expecting something scary? Vary his pace by starting off fast then lumbering in at the end of the day sending down half-trackers? I doubt that’s what the England selectors want from him.
When Harmison is at his best, he should be selected. When he takes six wickets in two innings bowling decently during a warm-up game, he should be sent back to Durham.