Harmi­son: You can’t be gob­bled up by pres­sure

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Hayter

STEVE HARMI­SON says Eng­land’s Ashes vir­gins must learn fast how to with­stand the in­tense pres­sure cre­ated by all­out Aus­tralian hos­til­ity on and off the field this win­ter or risk be­ing “gob­bled up” by it.

Harmi­son en­joyed his best days in an Eng­land shirt against the Aussies, as the spear­head of the pace at­tack that helped an un­fan­cied team win the 2005 se­ries against Ricky Ponting’s world cham­pi­ons in a con­test con­sid­ered by many to be the great­est Ashes se­ries.

But the gen­tle Durham giant also suf­fered his worst mo­ment in cricket against them, when he opened the re­match in the first Test of the 2006-07 se­ries in Bris­bane’s ‘Gab­ba­toir’ with what he him­self de­scribes as “the worst open­ing ball in the his­tory of Ashes cricket”.

Harmi­son ad­mits that the de­liv­ery he sent di­rectly into the hands of his friend and skip­per An­drew Flintoff at sec­ond slip, which prompted ridicule from home sup­port­ers and which some be­lieve set the tone for Eng­land’s 5-0 thrash­ing, was the re­sult of him let­ting the pres­sure of the oc­ca­sion get to him.

The Ashes new boys in Joe Root’s in­ex­pe­ri­enced squad, who ar­rive in Aus­tralia this week­end as clear sec­ond favourites in their at­tempt to re­tain the Ashes, have al­ready been given a taste of what will be in store from Aussie opener David Warner’s com­ments about go­ing to war against Eng­land and find­ing ways to hate his op­po­nents.

And Harmi­son stresses they must be swiftly brought up to speed with what they are cer­tain

> to face be­tween touch­down and the end of the five-match se­ries in Jan­uary if they are to stand any chance of vic­tory.

Ac­cord­ing to Harmi­son: “The one thing these Eng­land play­ers need to know and the ones who haven’t been to Aus­tralia have to be told quickly is what is go­ing to hap­pen to them the minute they get off the plane.

“I’ve been on the end of it. It’s not pleas­ant but that’s life. Each player needs to be sure in them­selves that what the opposition says, or what they hear from the crowd or the bloke in the lift or the peo­ple in the street or in the pa­pers or on TV is of no rel­e­vance to them as an in­di­vid­ual or as part of a col­lec­tive unit.

“They need to un­der­stand what sort of en­vi­ron­ment it is and they have to deal with it very quickly. If they don’t they’ll get gob­bled up.”

Root him­self is acutely aware of what he and his play­ers can ex­pect from Aussie crowds as they and fiercely par­ti­san sec­tions of their me­dia com­bine to ramp up the pres­sure.

Re­call­ing his first taste of it in 2013-14 he de­scribed walk­ing out to bat to chants of “Root is a w****er”, while Stu­art Broad was de­rided as a cheat all win­ter over his fail­ure to walk for a catch be­hind in the pre­vi­ous se­ries, with Aussie coach Dar­ren Lehmann pub­licly urg­ing crowds to give him plenty.

And, af­ter Warner called Eng­land’s bats­men weak and scared at fac­ing Mitchell John­son in the first Test in Bris­bane four years ago, Jonathan Trott suc­cumbed to men­tal stresses which forced him to fly home from the se­ries af­ter one match.

Eng­land will ar­rive in Aus­tralia with their least ex­pe­ri­enced Ashes squad since James Lil­ly­white’s XI stepped off the boat in March 1887 to start the ball rolling.

Nine mem­bers of Root’s party, Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Ma­son Crane, Ben Foakes, Dawid Malan, Craig Over­ton, Mark Stone­man, James Vince and Chris Woakes have never played a Test in Aus­tralia, the skip­per has played four, Steven Finn three, Jonny Bairstow two and Gary Bal­lance one.

Thirty-five of the 45 Test caps won Down Un­der by mem­bers of the 2017-18 squad are shared by three play­ers: Alas­tair Cook (15), James An­der­son (13) and Broad (7).

Yet Harmi­son also be­lieves Warner may be in dan­ger of dis­tract­ing him­self with the kind of in­flam­ma­tory lan­guage he used re­cently.

The Aus­tralian opener has at­tempted to row back from his orig­i­nal com­ments, which amounted to a dec­la­ra­tion of war on the Poms, but Harmi­son thinks the self-dam­age may al­ready have been done.

“If David Warner wants to go to war let him go to war,” says Harmi­son. “He’d manage to do that in an empty room, to be hon­est. But fin­gers crossed it knocks him off his own game.

“For me, Joe Root, Kane Wil­liamson, Vi­rat Kohli and AB de Vil­liers are the top four bat­ters in the world, but, on his day, Warner, along with Hashim Amla, is not far be­hind. So if his at­ten­tion is swayed in any way, happy days.”

Warner has come in for strong crit­i­cism for his com­ments, with mem­bers of The Cricket Pa­per’s Ashes panel adding to it else­where in this week’s is­sue.

For­mer Eng­land great Jack Rus­sell called them “brain­less”, adding: “If he has to do that then there is some­thing wrong with him. Just be­cause it’s the Ashes there’s no need to hate any­body.”

David ‘ Bum­ble’ Lloyd said: “These lads have to un­der­stand they are cus­to­di­ans of the Ashes. There are stan­dards to main­tain.”

Worst mo­ment: Harmi­son be­gan the 2006/7 Ashes with a wide

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.