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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 19:54 GMT
Harmison comes of age
Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent in Kingston, Jamaica

Every now and then cricket produces these bizarre and unexpected collapses.

It happened to England exactly 10 years ago in Trinidad when a giant fast bowler by the name of Curtly Ambrose wreaked havoc in the middle, and panic in the dressing room.

On Sunday, Steve Harmison, a gangling man of similar build, repeated the feat to condemn the West Indies to their lowest total in Test cricket.

Steve Harmison
Harmison took 7-12 in a devastating spell
It came utterly out of the blue, and while the original cause of the collapse might be inexplicable, I have been in a batting dressing room at the time of a rout.

It is chaotic in there: a mad scramble for bats, gloves and pads while a steady procession of disappointed batsmen return from the middle.

Little wonder that panic sets in, and once a team is really on the slide - in the West Indies' case 21-5 - there is no stopping it.

Harmison is an interesting character.

No doubt, many tales of his homesickness will be repeated in the papers this week - along with the story of his turning back from the airport when he was young because he did not want to go on tour.

Well, people are allowed to grow up - and Harmison appears to have done that.

Word seeped from the England camp when the team was in Bangladesh before Christmas that some still doubted his commitment.

In the meantime, Harmison has worked with the footballers at Newcastle United and, particularly, with Sir Bobby Robson, who appears to have got through.

Harmison still might not be the most outgoing fellow on the planet and, when he bowls, his body language does not express the aggression and intent of, say, Dennis Lillee or even Darren Gough.

But he bowled very rapidly on Sunday - and clinically - and that is all that matters.

The West Indies are now in trouble. It was clear none of them particularly fancied the job of squaring up to Harmison.

Their plight was compounded by the knowledge that they would be deprived of Fidel Edwards - their most consistent bowler - on the final day.

They were batting under real pressure and crumbled.

No wonder Sabina Park fell silent in disbelief - the huge music system apart.

At least, from the West Indian perspective, the next Test is in Lara's birthplace, Trinidad.

There, the local support will galvanise behind the captain, rather than lash out at him in anger, as might have been the case elsewhere.

But with so little time to recover from this devastation, and the radio phone-ins running red hot, the West Indies team is in the abyss.




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