Shine sticks by Harmison
Kevin Shine is backing spearhead Steve Harmison to shrug off his inconsistent start to the summer and deliver for England in the remainder of their Test series with Pakistan.
Former Hampshire seamer Shine, appointed as England’s bowling coach in succession to Troy Cooley earlier this year, faces the first real test of his skills following the failure to dismiss Pakistan on the final day of the drawn opening Test at Lord’s.
But Shine is confident Durham fast bowler Harmison, who only returned from a long spell on the sidelines with shin trouble for the one-day series against Sri Lanka, will improve despite 15 wicketless overs on a worn pitch at Lord’s during the final day.
Shine revealed: “He’s come back after a long lay-off and we’re working on his fitness and we’ve had a little look at his action as well.
“I think he’s come along really well during the first Test and I feel he’s improved during the match.
“He’s really happy and really positive about how it’s gone and now we’ve got a run of Test matches I think his form will go up and up.
“He’s a fantastic bowler, there’s no doubt about that, and with more overs under his belt I think we’ll start to see the best of Steve Harmison during the rest of this series.”
Harmison and the majority of the Lord’s line-up will have another week’s rest before reporting for duty at Old Trafford in the second Test on July 27, when England will hope the reunion with close friend Andrew Flintoff will bring out the best in him.
Shine has insisted England are not worried about Harmison’s form, despite a mixed one-day series and an inconsistent opening Test, and believe he can recapture the form which helped make him the world’s number one bowler a couple of years ago.
“You’re obviously not going to go in and make major changes to someone like Steve,” claimed Shine. “When he’s on his day he’s the best bowler in the world.
“He’s 6ft 4ins, gets a huge amount of bounce, gets movement as well so that’s a pretty good recipe for a fast bowler - my job is to try to maintain them when they’re at their best.”
England’s concern is not concentrated fully on Harmison with Durham team-mate Liam Plunkett also struggling for consistency after a promising start to his international career during the winter.
As a result England have decided to allow Plunkett to play in Durham’s three-day game against West Indies A at Chester-le-Street on Friday, while wicket-keeper Geraint Jones will feature in Kent’s NatWest Pro40 fixture against Surrey at Guildford on Sunday.
Shine believes England will benefit by remaining patient with Plunkett - and insists the 21-year-old youngster has the mental strength to come through his current indifferent patch.
He said: “Liam’s improving all the time.
“He’s very young and he’s only played around 40 first class games.
“He’s a strong character, he really works hard, he’s very conscientious and he’s a very exciting bowler for now and the future.
“What we’ve got to do is keep working at his action and his game and try to get him some more experience and I think we’ve got a very exciting bowler for the future.”
He added: “I feel very positive about Liam playing Test cricket.
“The test of a country is its strength in depth and for us to be able to bring in a youngster at 21 and not look out of place in Test cricket is a huge plus for the system and a huge plus for Liam.
“He’s such a steady character. He works hard on his fitness and his game and has such a mature outlook on his game and his preparation so we don’t worry about him.”