Veteran bowlers key to Ashes success, says Harmison
The first Test begins at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Steve Harmison believes veteran pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad hold the key to England reclaiming the Ashes this summer.
Test cricket’s oldest battle resumes at Edgbaston on Thursday, the start of a five-match Specsavers Ashes Series when Joe Root’s side aim to maintain the feel-good factor in English cricket after World Cup glory in the white-ball game.
It is shaping up to be a fascinating contest between two evenly-matched sides, but Harmison – a 2005 Ashes hero who played alongside Broad and Anderson during the 2009 series win – feels England have trump cards in his two former team-mates.
“The two pace attacks are different in dynamics, out-and-out pace against experience,” Harmison told PA at an event organised by Ashes sponsors Specsavers.
“Australia have bowlers who can blast you away – Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Josh Hazlewood.
“But if they don’t get it quite right they can go at six an over. Broad and Anderson will very rarely go at six an over.
“They’ll be down on pace compared to the opposition, but they’ll have total control of what they’re doing.
“They won’t let the opposition get away from them and that is key.
“Broad and Anderson are still the first two names on the team sheet for me, because in English conditions it’s still better to have their experience than any 90 miles per hour bowler.”
Anderson, England’s leading Test wicket-taker with 575, missed the 143-run victory over Ireland with a calf strain but is expected to play against Australia.
Jofra Archer was also named in the squad after a side strain and should provide the raw pace that Harmison wants to see supplement the craft of two men who have more than 1,000 Test wickets between them.
“If you’ve got Broad and Anderson in your team, who will bowl a lot of overs, then having a quick bowler who can bowl 90 miles per hour provides a dynamic attack,” said Harmison.
“England need to have a quick bowler playing in every Test match, and hopefully Archer will be ready.
“If not, Olly Stone can maybe put himself in the shop window. He’s raw, but he bowls quickly and has got a great strike rate. He takes five-wicket hauls and I like that in fast bowlers.”
England’s batting is of concern after Ireland bowled them out for 85 in their first innings at Lord’s.
But Australia have batting frailties as well and few of their players looked in good touch during an inter-squad match at Southampton this week.
“There are big question marks over England’s batting at the top of the order,” Harmison said.
“David Warner and Steve Smith coming back helps Australia, but there are question marks over their middle order.
“That’s what makes this series so interesting, and England’s middle order could make that 70-80 run difference.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a series of high quality as the two teams are not as good as their white-ball sides.
“But sometimes that lack of quality can make for a better series. England are slight favourites with the home advantage, but I see it a lot closer than people think. I take England to win by the odd game.”
– Steve Harmison was speaking at an event organised by Specsavers. ‘The Test Experts’ Specsavers are Official Test Partner for the England cricket team. Ahead of the Specsavers Ashes Series, which starts on August 1, they are encouraging fans to book an eye test or hearing check.