|Player:||SJ Harmison, ML Hayden, MJ Clarke, A Flintoff, DAG Fletcher|
DateLine: 8th January 2007
Steve Harmison gave a glimpse of what might have been Wednesday with a zestful bowling performance to give England hope of preventing a 5-0 Ashes series whitewash to Australia in the final Test.
The Durham giant has been one of the tourists' biggest disappointments in the series with just eight wickets in the four Test defeats heading to the final Sydney Test after his 17-wicket haul in the 2005 Ashes series. Harmison bowled with bounce and accuracy to remove Matthew Hayden (33) and Michael Clarke (11) as Australia recovered to 188 for four at second day stumps in reply to England's 291.
Harmison was given an extended run by skipper Andrew Flintoff, sending down 16 overs for 2-34. He began the series with a spectacular wide on his opening delivery in the first Gabba Test to set the tone for his misfiring series, but he looked more like his old self Wednesday, although he said he still experienced rhythm difficulties.
"I didn't feel like I had any rhythm at all," he admitted. "It was a matter of being patient and putting the ball in good areas. I got two wickets. I didn't bowl at 90 miles an hour, like I can bowl, the speed was down but at the end of the day it was just a little bit of rhythm that was off. Today it wasn't as fluent, but I feel more confident that it didn't come out great and I still got two wickets."
Harmison, who has been relegated to first-change bowler after the shambles in Brisbane, said he had been frustrated by his Ashes performance, but said it was not because of a lack of effort.
"It is frustrating and I'm sure it's frustrating for everybody watching," he said. "But at the end of the day I've tried my hardest, I've tried my best. If you see my face at the end of the game I've always given it everything I can, and as long as I'm doing that then I can't do anything else but keep trying. That's the best thing I can do."
Harmison said it was Flintoff's call who bowled with the new ball in the Test matches. "I'm not bothered to be honest. I'll do what my captain says. I'll try and do what the team needs me to do. I'll bowl wherever, as long as I'm in the team," he said. "At the end of the day I've just got to bide my time."
Harmison said his decision to retire from one-day cricket was relayed to team management before he left for Australia and had no bearing on his tour travails. "I told (coach) Duncan Fletcher the day we left for Australia that I was planning to retire from one-day cricket," Harmison said. "He knew, I knew and a few people in the England dressing room knew that before we left England that I wasn't going to be involved in the one day series, so that had no bearing on what happened at all."
Harmison said the team had been devastated by how things had panned out. "We're all disappointed, despondent, whichever words you want to use. We were devastated at the end of each Test match and in that dressing room it was horrendous," he said. "It's not a very nice place to be as you can imagine being 4-0 down. You have to put on a brave face, you have to come out and show fight and try not to let it get into your game when the next Test match comes around, that's what we've done. Fred (Flintoff) has probably taken it harder than everyone else because he's captain and Duncan Fletcher is taking it and copping it as coach. He's taking stick but at the end of the day he's trying his best and we're all trying to win this Test match."