Harmison: Bring On The Ashes!

Much talk in recent weeks has been regarding the Stanford Twenty20 matches that England take part in next month. Victory provides one of the richest prizes in sport and there is no doubt that England will be determined to win. However, Steve Harmison – who was criticised by some for coming out of one-day retirement in time for the Stanford games – has said that his main focus for the next year is regaining the Ashes from Australia.

The Durham man says that the next 12 months is going to be ‘exciting and intense’ for the England team and that despite all the money available in the Stanford series, the Ashes is ‘one to really win’. Of course, Harmison was dropped after a poor start to the New Zealand series in the winter but has come back to the fold under new captain Kevin Pietersen firing on all cylinders. The England bowling attack really does look much, much stronger with Harmison involved. Especially when he acts as part of the ‘3rd and 4th seamers’ with his good friend Andrew Flintoff.

Harmison obviously played an integral part in England winning the Ashes back in 2005 and is keen to replicate such a series next summer when Australia come to England once again. He says that for England to beat the Aussies is a very ‘realistic goal’ and having tasted victory against them as well as a 5-0 whitewash – he knows which he enjoyed being part of more. The England players involved in this disastrous series, including Harmison, will be very keen to banish it from their memories with a positive outcome against a much change Australia team next summer.

There does seem to be a new determination from Harmison. He sounds like he has regained his passion for representing the England team. He obviously works well under the captain Pietersen and this will benefit the England side a great deal. With Harmison’s unique pace and bounce, he is a bowler that can strike fear into the opposition. If England are to win the Ashes next year, the likes of Harmison, Flintoff and Pietersen will be the key men. It was certainly good to see them all in top form against South Africa this summer. Long may that continue!

Instead of looking too far ahead though, it really is worth highlighting the fantastic season that Harmison has had. In his own words he started the new campaign at his ‘lowest ebb’. However, he has ended it not only back in the England team, but with his Durham winning the County Championship for the first time. After his distinctly below average performance in New Zealand, many cricket bets were being placed on Harmison never playing for England again. The way he has fought back has to be admired, even by his biggest critics.

It is important that Harmison continues his recent revival though. There is a lot of cricket to be played until now and the Ashes and it will be interesting to see if he can perform sufficiently on tour. Should everything continue to go swimmingly in the land of Harmison over the next few months, there is no doubt that the cricket odds are more likely to favour England winning the Ashes. The likes of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey would rather not face a fired up, in form Steve Harmison – of that I have no doubt. Keep it going Steve!

Thomas Rooney - Freelance Sports Journalist

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