Stephen Harmison, facing the mighty Australian batsmen for possibly the one last time before the Ashes series later this year, is not nervous. Rather, he is keen to seize an early advantage by helping England knock Australia out of the tournament.
And there could not be a better chance than right now. Australia, shocked by the West Indies on Wednesday, take on England here on a wicket which the Englishmen know better — Harmison thus believes that his team is capable of handing Australia another shock.
“I think the problem the other day was that we had just 125 on the board,” the tall pacemen said of the defeat to India. “But all the bowlers tried hard to come back into the game, and we did make a fight of it.”
“But now we know how the wicket behaves here, and hope we will not repeat the mistakes,” added Harmison, who had figures of two for 34 off six overs in the loss to India.
Harmison was an integral part of the England’s Ashes-winning team, combining with new-ball partner Simon Jones to win back the trophy after 17 long years.
The ankle injury he suffered after the second Test against Pakistan after getting 11 wickets and a Man of the Match award has now completely healed. But he admits he is not bowling at his best, especially with the new ball. The gift of 20 runs he made to India in his very first is something he wants to forget in a hurry.
“I felt confident and content the way I came back after that,” he said. “I bowled a couple of pitched up balls which Sachin got through mid-wicket, but I came back well over the next five overs, giving away just 14. I was probably trying too hard earlier.”
Harmison feels that for a bowler of his height (6ft 5in), hitting the deck harder with greater consistency on such tracks is likely to prove fruitful.
“I’m trying to bowl as straight as I possibly can. At my height, you can bowl a little bit shorter,” said Harmison. “The pitch we played on was a bit up and down. The ball that I got Sachin out on, on a true pitch it would have been waist-high. But it caught Sachin on his ankle. So I probably need to hit the deck as hard as I can.”
Before the start of the Champions Trophy, the spinners were expected to hog the limelight on the slow Indian tracks. But in the 10 matches so far, it is pace that has dominated.
“From my experience in Jaipur, I feel that in the latter part of the game, when the ball gets a bit soft and the pitch gets worn, seamers take wickets because of the inconsistency in the bounce,” Harmison said.
The paceman is not embarrassed to admit that the team's focus remains on the Ashes series, though it is still some time away.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t so,” he said. “Everybody’s got one eye on the Ashes, you have as well. Everybody’s looking ahead to the big occasion.”
“But we’re here to do a job. We need to win the game on Saturday, and hopefully we’ll do it,” said Harmison.
Despite losing to India, England can take heart from the fact that all their bowlers — Harmison, James Anderson, Sajid Mahmood and the two spinners — bowled their heart out and troubled India right till the very end. It would be interesting to watch how they tackle an equally strong Aussie batting line-up, though Harmison is hoping for an encore.
“I can’t imagine we’ll bowl any differently to Ponting, Gilchrist, Martyn than we have planned,” he said, refusing to accept the argument that having lost a match each, the two teams could be forced to be on the defensive.