I intended writing daily, alas after serious sleep deprivation on Wednesday night as I listened to the cricket commentary on the first day of the first test between Australia and England I battled to get through my work on Thursday and Friday. At least I am relatively up to date now.
While it is easy to talk with hindsight, I questioned the inclusion of Harmison in the test lineup before the test, I was in fact doubtful about his inclusion in the squad. To be a front line Test opening bowler you need to be “on song” more often than every now and again. His Hallalueya year of 2004 has not been repeated, and although he has had the odd test since then when he has got a crop of wickets they are too few and too far between. A front line strike bowler should be able to do two things firstly he should keep the top order batsmen “honest” and secondly he should wrap up the tail enders. If we analyse his wickets we find that since 2004 his good performances have been when the top order are going for him with hook shots … I dont think that is keeping them honest at all. If the bowler is getting his wickets as a result of mistimed shots by the batsman rather than as a result of beating the batsman we should not rate him too highly regardless of his results.
I hear that he is likely to play tomorrow, with Anderson being left out for Panesar. I would prefer seeing Harmison left out. The selection of two spinners does give England the option of tying up the batsmen, but I do wonder whether Panesar has yet earned his colours. From a narrow perspective he pushes the ball through quite quickly with very little flight to beguile the batsman, he tends to rely on accuracy rather than guile and as such should be good at containing the batsmen rather than breaking through. His strike rate at this point of his career does not suggest that he will bowl out many sides, however his economy rate could do something towards stemming the flow of runs from the Australians. I suspect that if contained the Australian batsmen will become impatient renderering them more likely to fall.
We have to keep in mind that Australia bat down to no 8 and their number 9 Lee is cetainly no slouch either, while England can only be considered to bat as far as number 6 with Giles and Go Jones on the perifery of being true all rounders. It will be critical that the England Top order perform to their maximum potential.
Lets hope that against the odds they can give the Aussies a good stuffing.