Ashes 3rd Test Preview - Steve Harmison
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Ashes 3rd Test Preview - Steve Harmison

Speaking ahead of the third Ashes Test in a series where England trail Australia 2-0, former England bowler Steve Harmison unpicks Joe Root’s criticism of his bowlers, reveals his XI for the Boxing Day Test, stands up for Jos Buttler and reveals what it’s like to play in one of cricket’s greatest fixtures.




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Steve Harmison's England XI 3rd Test

Burns, Crawley, Malan, Root, Stokes, Bairstow, Buttler, Robinson, Broad, Wood, Anderson


Steve Harmison: Joe Root fired warned shot to Anderson and Broad but I wouldn’t have liked his post-match comments one bit.

I wouldn't have a problem if I was on the receiving end of Root's comments if he had first walked into the dressing room and stripped ten layers off the wall and said it to us before the media. Not speaking to the dressing room first was something that would have really disappointed me.

I think Root's comments about the bowlers were said in the heat of the moment, I think he wanted to mention something that was on the tip of his tongue, but I don't think it was meant to be that severe. 

Perhaps he was playing mind games and this was Root's way of saying to the media that they didn't bowl well enough and this is giving him justification to drop Anderson and Broad in the future. He's said to them 'I've been playing Mr Nice Guy for two-and-a-half years now, you've [Anderson and Broad] got 150 Test matches.

Woakes, you've played for a while and you're experienced enough' and he's put a shot across the bow. It felt like Root's first push to leave Broad and Anderson out and it might happen that they go into another Test match without them and with Overton and Woakes instead.


Steve Harmison: Root has split the dressing room with his comments.

What’s worrying about Root’s comments is that his words directed at the bowlers turns any team meeting into a batsman vs bowlers situation. The bowlers might see Buttler face 200 balls on a fifth day pitch as England only score 230 and 190 and think that's not good enough and say 'I won't let anyone have a go at me like that. 

You can tell me to pitch it up all you want but you lot have to score runs.' That's when it turns nasty in dressing rooms and all of a sudden fractions come - there's groups of twos and threes forming - and it tends to be the bowling unit that stays together and have a go at the batsman. 

I think this team get on well and this conversation could be a good thing. I've got full confidence that James Anderson and Stuart Broad will say 'hang on, we've been bowled out for 230 and 190', they wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't say that. 

There would be a bit of a discussion about how they get better and they move forward accordingly and that was something that this team needed, so Root might have planned it all along. It's all about what his unit are about and his understanding there to make it right.

England now need to forget all the talking and it is now about actions, which starts on Boxing Day.




Steve Harmison: Arguments on 2006-07 tour with Kevin Pietersen caused problems in the nets.

Root could be Mr Nice Guy on the front and then tear it up in the dressing room. Vaughan was Mr Nice Guy, you didn't know what was going on underneath his glasses and brim hat, but when he came in the dressing room he didn't care who he was talking to, whether it was me, [Matthew] Hoggy, or Freddie [Flintoff], he let you have it with both barrels, that's what captains do. 

I don't think England have as many characters as we need to go and play Australia. Vaughan was like that, Strauss too. Strauss was a public school boy and spoke the right way, but he had a tongue on him. When Strauss came in and he wasn't happy, he'd have a go and let you know about it. If you don't do your job properly, you should expect criticism.

Net situations can get really spicy after these kind of comments are made because they could get out of hand, I remember on the 2006/07 tour and in Perth we were in a net and Kevin Pietersen had a go at us. We were bowling with old balls and then he started taking the mick and being a showman. 

Hoggy [Matthew Hoggard] was with me and Jon Lewis, and he got three brand new balls and we started bowling bouncers at KP and he didn't like it. He came storming down after the seventh ball went over his head and he started shouting and screaming 'what the hell are you lot doing!' and Hoggy said 'if you act like that with old balls then we'll bowl with new balls. we're doing you a favour by bowling with old balls and we want to use the new ones.' 

All of a sudden a batsman versus bowlers situation came up, the whole thing blew up. It was something that happens all the time in nets, but because we were in a tough situation going into the third Test, Hoggard and Pietersen were at each other and the bowlers stuck together and KP tried to show how he was flamboyant and we took offence as we felt it wasn't proper cricket. 

In the end, Freddie said 'come on children, stop being childish, let's go back to doing things properly', and Kevin had a great net after that. But it got to a point where there was a bad situation when something was said against the bowling unit and Root has done something similar by talking about the bowling unit after the second Test.


Steve Harmison: England may win one Test but a whitewash remains a real possibility.

I think a whitewash is on the table, but I like to think that England will get at least one Test win on the board. England will get better as the series goes on and will win at least one Test match - I just hope it's not just the last one as that would be a dead rubber - I'd love it to be Melbourne as that puts a lot of pressure on Australia. 

England's difficult preparation means only now are they ready for a Test match, there is nothing the players can do about the T20 World Cup quarantining or Brisbane being a washout two weeks beforehand. 

England should now start coming into their own, being comfortable batting on these wickets against these bowlers and bowling well with this ball. Hopefully we see a better England over the next three Test matches, but it won't be enough to win the series. England will win one, maybe two, but Australia will win at least one more Test match.



Steve Harmison: A green wicket means England can utilise seamers and Wood must play.

The wicket for the next match looks as if it has a bit of green on it so I wouldn't have a problem with picking five seamers, even though we were criticising England for doing this at Adelaide, but the pitch there didn't suit picking five seamers - whereas the pitch in Brisbane did. 

If England get that sort of surface and bowl first, then I'd pick five seamers: Wood, Robinson, Anderson and Broad, with Stokes playing as an all-rounder. If it looks like it will be dry and England bat first, then you'd pick Leach and chose between one of Broad or Anderson, I'd go for Anderson over Broad even though Broad bowled well in Adelaide. 

Robinson probably deserves another Test match, Chris Woakes is finding good areas but he just hasn't got any wickets. 

Wood has to play, there is no question at all, because England need some variation in their attack. A big question is whether they pick a spinner, if Root picks a spin bowler then it'll probably be at the expense of Broad because the wicket will be decent for batting on. 

If the wicket has anything in it - and I don't believe that Australia would play against England on anything other than a good, flat wicket - then you bat first. If you play on something that is juicy then you bring the game closer to England. I don't think

England will do this. I think England will pick Woakes and Overton and I think they'll leave both Broad and Anderson out. That message from Joe Root at the end of the second Test was a first shot across the bow to leave the two all-time greats out. 


Steve Harmison: Hameed isn’t suited to play in Australia so he should make way for Crawley, while Pope looks lost down under and must fulfil his potential.

I'd leave Hameed out, he looks fidgety. He left the ball really well in Brisbane, but his low hands get him into trouble and he might be a horses-for-courses player that plays in sub-continent conditions - just like we have with Dawid Malan playing well in Australia. 

Ollie Pope has looked all at sea, whether it's the pressure getting to him or his technique letting him down. This kid is a fantastic cricketer and he'll play 100 Test matches for England, but right now he needs to get away from potential and start delivering actual

run-scoring performances. Adelaide was his 22nd Test match and I'd go with experience instead with Bairstow at six, then Buttler at seven. My selection would be an experienced team and England need these players to count in front of a packed crowd on Boxing Day. I'm also looking at Burns, Malan, Bairstow and Buttler and thinking that they might not be back in four years time so they're playing for their Test careers too.




Steve Harmison: Buttler deserves another chance as wicketkeeper and has proved his worth with the bat.

Buttler has dropped catches, it happens - the gloves being on doesn't mean that you catch everything. I thought Buttler dropped an easy catch and then he dropped one that hit him hard, he also took some stunners - he's taken some very good catches in this series so far. He's not the only one that's dropped catches so far on this trip, and, unfortunately, Australia are in a position of strength thanks to some help from England.

I was proud of Buttler standing up and not giving his wicket away in the second innings, he chewed up a lot of balls and faced the bowlers on a tough surface. He might have been out for a pair and we might not have seen him in a Test again if Alex Carey or David

Warner took that catch, he'd be out for zero and zero and there would have been a lot of stick and pressure to come. I'm really pleased he got an innings in the second innings, England were never going to win the game on runs so it was important to dig in and

Buttler's show of strength will stand him in good stead for the next three Test matches. I've questioned him in the past when he first came in, but he can't be dropped now for missing a catch in Adelaide after 150 overs in the field.


Steve Harmison: Thriving in Boxing Day Test separates the good from the great players.

Playing in the Boxing Day Test is an unbelievable feeling, it's one of the best days in world cricket if you get a chance to play It's the only day as a bowler when you sit back and you think 'I want to bowl for the rest of the day'. The reason you're an international

cricketer is because you walk out onto the field in front of thousands of people and you feel inspired to do your best and the reason a player is just a first class cricketer is largely down to ability but also the mentality that you can't perform in front of big crowds on the biggest occasions. 

The reason why you're Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Joe Root, Jimmy Anderson or Stuart Broad, is because when you walk up those steps at 10:25 in the morning on Boxing Day and see tens of thousands of people, you're thinking 'they've all come to watch me', and that makes you perform. 

The Boxing Day Test was one of the only days where I thought 'I want to bowl first today, I want to be out here for as long as possible and I don't want this day to finish.' It doesn't matter if you're having a good or a bad day, to be in the middle of the

field at the MCG on Boxing Day is just unbelievable, because it's only one day. Fewer and fewer people come over the next couple of days and it quickly feels empty. If you're doing well and it looks like you're going to win, then nobody will be there on day

five. In 2010-11 there was only a few in and they were the Barmy Army, but with them not being able to travel this year, England will hopefully win the Test match on day five with nobody in the stadium.


Steve Harmison: England have to be patient with Jofra Archer’s fitness.

With Jofra, England have to let him get fit. He's a world class performer and that will come back. You hope and wish Jofra comes back to play at his best, even if it is just for Sussex. When you're injured, you're in such a lonely and horrendous place and you think

the world is against you. All you want to do from being 10 years old is to have the bat in hand and play cricket and then some people become fortunate enough to get paid for playing and do this professionally, so when you're injured it's so hard because you can't do the thing that you always wanted to do.

He's got a very simple action, there's not many moving parts to it and it's done at pace. If he loses a little bit of pace then he'll still be more than effective in all formats of the game. He's the type of player that will look to wherever the biggest stage is

and will say 'this is Jofra Archer's stage' and he wants to be in the limelight all of the time. When you have that, which comes naturally and easily to you, then there's never going to be any question about his ability to come back. He's not going to

want to come back and just play for Sussex, he's going to want to come back and play for the England team in all formats and Rajasthan Royals because he wants to be on the big stage and that's what makes him such an incredible bowler.

I was critical of Jofra a few years ago and I wasn't sure if he wanted to play Test cricket, but I saw what he did when England played New Zealand at Mount Maunganui where he bowled over after over after over and he did a great interview about wanting to play

Test match cricket and that completely changed my opinion of him in that regard. 

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