Monday 27 November 2006 

'Harmison Right Man To Lead Attack' - Flintoff

England captain Andrew Flintoff has ruled out any chance of replacing Steve Harmison as his opening bowler for the second Ashes test despite his erratic performance in the opener.

England's main strike bowler made a terrible start to the series in Brisbane, finishing with the unflattering figures of one for 177 from 42 wayward overs.

Harmison bowled six wides in the first innings, including a comical effort with his very first delivery that went straight to Flintoff at second slip.

But Flintoff said Harmison was working hard on regaining his rhythm and confidence and expected him to make a big improvement when the second test starts in Adelaide on Friday.

"It's fair to say Harmy's not bowled as well as he can," Flintoff told a news conference at the Gabba on Monday.

"He knows that, and he's been working hard in the nets with bowling coach Kevin Shine.

"He's desperate to get into this series, he's desperate to bowl the way we all know he can and he's working towards that.

"Harmy's just got to keep working and hopefully things will come right for him."

England's other two pacemen Matthew Hoggard and James Anderson also struggled in Brisbane with Hoggard taking 2-141 in the match and Anderson 1-195.

Flintoff, bowling second change, was easily England's most successful bowler, taking 4-99 in the first innings and 0-11 in the second after bowling just five overs.

CLEAN BOWLED

He dismissed both Australian openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden on the first day then clean bowled Mike Hussey and Stuart Clark on day two but said he had no plans to take the new ball in Adelaide.

"My role in the side is to come on as first change or second change and that's probably where I'm at my best," he said.

"As a new ball bowler I've done that in the past, I've taken the second new ball on occasions and the first new ball on odd times, but I think there's better lads to use that new ball than myself."

Harmison came into the first test under an injury cloud but admitted his errant performance was a mental problem not physical.

"My performance in the first test of this Ashes series has been nowhere near what I'm capable of. It just wasn't good enough, and I hold my hands up," Harmison wrote in London's Mail on Sunday.

"When I turned up at the Gabba, I felt I was ready. Yet when it came to bowling the first ball, I froze. I let the enormity of the occasion get to me."

Harmison's nervous start did not go unnoticed by the Australians with captain Ricky Ponting saying it gave his team an immediate boost but he warned his team mates that Harmison was the sort of bowler who could rediscover his form in an instant.

"I'm sure they will be paying a lot of attention to what he's doing in the lead-up to Adelaide and they'll need him at his best going forward in this series," Ponting said.

"I think through the game he got better, his spells late on the first day and second day were a lot better and he's completely a rhythm bowler and if he's a little bit out then the radar is a little bit out."

© Reuters 2006.
By Julian Linden