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Harmison: Aussies low on confidence

Investec Test Series

Steve Harmison & Phillip Hughes

Steve Harmison produced a fine opening six-over spell for the Lions to remove the dangerous young opener Phillip Hughes

Steve Harmison believes Australia are suffering from a crisis of confidence with the first Ashes Test in Cardiff only a week away.

The England paceman bowled with much of his old fire in returning 3-67 from 22 overs for England Lions against Ricky Ponting’s side at New Road.

Harmison gave a torrid time to new Australia opener Phillip Hughes, who looked uncomfortable against short pitched bowling before fending a delivery to Joe Denly at gully after making just seven.

But it is the overall body language of the Australians that gives Harmison hope England can regain the Ashes.

Harmison said: “This is my fourth time against Australia and the one thing I picked that they are not as brash and confident as they normally are.

“I can’t put my finger on it. Maybe it is to do with the side gelling together or whether they don’t have the big players of recent years, and the confidence you get from that.

“But they don’t seem to be the confident Australia I’ve known. I think there is only Ricky Ponting and Brett Lee who have played more Ashes tests than myself in the two squads.

“There are things you pick up on like body language. I’ve seen a little chink there. It is understandable because there are not the players in their side from bygone years.

“There is definitely something to work on for England and, if we can bat well, we have half a chance to win the Ashes back.”

Harmison is hoping the England selectors will have picked up on how uncomfortable Hughes, who averages 60 in his three Tests, was in facing the short pitched ball.

He said: “The only one I hadn’t played against in their line-up was Phillip Hughes and I was interested to see how he went.

Mike Hussey

Centurion Mike Hussey believes Hughes will be fine during the Test series despite falling to a short Harmison delivery today

“I feel as if I picked up early where I wanted to bowl at him. I felt comfortable in the line and lengths I wanted to bowl at him.

“He is a very good player. I’ve seen him on television, he is 20, averaging 60 in Test cricket for Australia. He is no mug. He is a good player.

“England have got to be wary of him but if what happened today has unearthed an area where England can bowl at him, then great.”

Harmison added: “If you put the short ball in the right area, he will belt it. But he is susceptible to any ball coming anywhere around his hip and armpit area.

“That has given him an eye opener for what is to come because we have got some tall bowlers in the England team and they might target that area.”

Australia century-maker Mike Hussey is backing Hughes to bounce back from his searching examination by Harmison and Co.

“Phil will be fine," he insisted. “The thing about Phil is he plays with freedom and no fear. If he keeps a clear mind and plays his way, he will be effective.

“He has got to stick with what has brought him success.”

Hussey was also delighted to have ended his nine-month drought without a century as he finished unbeaten on 143, helping Australia to close on 337 for eight from 90 overs.

He added: “It has been a long time since I scored a century and to spend so much time in the middle was important only a week before the Ashes get under way.

“It was good to get my confidence up and get a big score under my belt.”