x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Harmison posts reminder as England dominate

The fast bowler puts pressure on selectors and struggling Stuart Broad could be the man to step aside for the in-form Durham man.

LONDON // Of all the fascinating sub-plots being played out by the two sets of players at Lord's, the most intriguing of all might actually be the one unfolding between two of England's bowlers. Although they combined brilliantly to remove Simon Katich yesterday, Graham Onions and Stuart Broad will bound down the steps of the Lord's pavilion this afternoon knowing they are probably vying for one spot in England's bowling unit for the next Test match at Edgbaston. The clamour for Steve Harmison to be parachuted back into the line-up increased yesterday after the towering paceman produced another hostile spell of bowling for Durham that yielded six Nottinghamshire wickets.

Andrew Strauss, the England captain, said Harmison would have played at Lord's had Andrew Flintoff not passed a fitness test, but even if England beat the rain, and Australia, to go one up in the series, the England selectors might have to ignore the adage of not changing a winning side. Harmison may not go about his work with the attitude and hunger desired by the England management, and there have been suggestions that his alliance with Flintoff, his great friend, has, in the past, had a disruptive effect on the dressing room. There are also question marks over his willingness to tour and the selectors will want to build a side for the trip to South Africa this winter.

However, his form is making it difficult to leave him in the wilderness and the Australian batsmen, particularly Phillip Hughes, will lose more sleep over the prospect of facing Harmison than Onions or Broad. Harmison will also have fond memories of Edgbaston. It was his magnificently disguised slower delivery to dismiss Michael Clarke with the final ball of a memorable day's cricket on day four that set up England's shot at victory in 2005.

Amid the touching embrace between Flintoff and Brett Lee, it is easy to forget that it was Harmison's delivery which Michael Kasprowicz gloved down the leg side to Geraint Jones. Broad's place appears most under threat. Although it is argued his batting gives England's line-up a deeper look to it, before yesterday, his last 16 Test wickets have come at a cost of 614 runs. Ricky Ponting's side bore the hallmark of the world's best side yesterday when they took three wickets in the first three overs to continue England's collapse from 221 for one to 378 for nine.

Captain Andrew Strauss was bowled by Ben Hilfenhaus without adding to his overnight score of 161. But they allowed Onions and Jimmy Anderson to put on a record 47 for the last wicket to take them to 425. Australia then themselves collapsed to 156 for eight, still needing 70 more runs to avoid the follow on, when bad light stopped play for the day. Onions took his first Ashes wicket, Katich for 48.

History was also made as the dark London skies saw floodlights used for the first time in a Test match in England for part of the proceedings in the afternoon. kaffleck@thenational.ae