Grievous Bodily Harmison firing
England will be hoping Steve Harmison can leave further scars on Australia’s batsmen in this weekend’s ICC Champions Trophy showdown.
The 27-year-old has caused considerable damage to the Australians since the opening of the 2005 Ashes summer when he and his fellow England quicks peppered their opponents in the 100-run Twenty20 win.
He also famously struck each of Australia’s top three on the first morning of the first Test, leaving a gash on Ricky Ponting’s right cheek as a legacy.
A year ago Harmison combined with compatriot Andrew Flintoff and Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan to decimate the Australian batting in the second innings of the Super Test in Sydney, sharing the rewards equally as the hosts lost their final nine wickets for 47 in 24 overs.
On Saturday he will offer the main pace threat as the Ashes rivals meet for the first time this winter, at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, and he is currently carrying extra responsibility due to captain Flintoff’s inability to operate as an all-rounder.
“I don’t feel as though there is any more pressure on my shoulders,” said Harmison. “Everybody is under pressure.
“For the game against Australia, the only thing that has been added since last night is that the loser goes home.”
Talk has turned to England’s Ashes defence and although Harmison concedes that is inevitable, he does not believe the result in this weekend’s one-dayer will have the significance of the 20-over thrashing imposed on Australia last summer.
“Beating them would be a good start but this is different,” said Harmison. “The Twenty20 was the start of 12 weeks of hard cricket in the same sort of environment, on the same sort of pitches in the same climate. Now we are in India and it is a one-off occasion.
“I imagine 15 to 20% of the players involved on Saturday will not be involved in Brisbane on Nov 23.
“I’m not going to talk bull, saying we haven’t got one eye on the Ashes because we have. Everybody has one eye on it but we are here to do a job and win a competition.”
England’s start to that quest was impaired by a lacklustre opener against India when, defending a score of just 125, Harmison misfired to the tune of 20 runs in his first over.
“The thing I did beat myself up about the other day was that I tried too hard,” he said. “Because we only had 125 on the board, I lost a bit of focus rather than staying in control.
“I didn’t feel as though I’d let the team down, I felt as though I’d let myself down.
“Being around a while and being a little bit more experienced than some of the others I probably should have reined it in a little bit rather than go gung-ho to try to blast them out from ball one.
“It was an eagerness to do well. I hadn’t bowled for a while. That’s not an excuse.”
Durham’s Harmison has struggled to control the white ball in recent times - he was hit for an England one-day record 97 runs against Sri Lanka at Headingley in the summer - and has been employed as a wicket-taker in mid-innings.
When he returned, after an initial two-over burst, against India he was much improved and dismissed Sachin Tendulkar with one which kept low.
He added: “With the unevenness of that pitch and with it being a bit up and down - the ball that got Sachin on any other pitch would have hit him waist-high but actually hit him on the top of the ankle - it’s important to hit the deck as hard as you can.
“Even later in the innings when the ball is softer it can deceive a batsman.
“I will bowl with the new ball or the old ball - it doesn’t really matter. As long as I’m not carrying the drinks I’m happy.”
Harmison did not watch much of Australia’s defeat to West Indies in Mumbai last night because he could not find the correct channel on his hotel room television.
Flintoff, meanwhile, was consigned to his room through illness and was still struggling this morning before recovering to report for afternoon nets.
Although he spent a solid 20-minute session bowling, appearing to be somewhere near 100% - a welcome sight 12 weeks and a day since ankle surgery - he is not expected to turn his arm over until the final Group A match, against West Indies.