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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 January, 2005, 10:14 GMT
England must solve Harmison problem

By Geoff Boycott
Former England batsman

Steve Harmison
Has Harmison lost confidence totally or is he homesick?

The momentum is with South Africa now.

They have been calling in new faces each Test to freshen up their team and they've done that now with the experienced wicket-keeper Mark Boucher.

The people they bring in are in good form because they are playing in provincial cricket.

It gives them a lift and a tonic because playing back-to-back Test matches in such a short space of time is a ridiculous itinerary.

The converse side is if England want to bring anyone in it's a player out of form who hasn't had any cricket. It's a big disadvantage for us.

Robert Key, for example, had played beautifully in England but played two silly shots in Cape Town and when you don't bat in the middle you don't get used to the levels of concentration you need.

If our guys come in, they're tentative and unsure because they've had no cricket.

In the Transvaal we are 6,000ft above sea level and you find the ball carries much further. When you're batting, the ball zips on.

We've only got three days of nets so you have got to get used to it because it can be quite disconcerting.

Johannesburg and Centurion would be ideal for Steve Harmison if he was bowling well but he isn't and England have to solve that problem.

Physio Kirk Russell works on Andrew Flintoff's troubled side
Physio Kirk Russell works on Andrew Flintoff's troubled side

Is it mental or is it technical? Is it that the lad's lost confidence totally or is he homesick? He hasn't been able to find his rhythm, his length or his line.

Andrew Flintoff's not fit. He is only going to practise his bowling on Wednesday.

That sounds very dodgy - because you have to bowl 20 overs in a day and he could end up breaking down half way through the match.

He's got to bowl flat out. He's an aggressive bowler ands he takes wickets that way. It's no good if he has to bowl within himself.

We've been relying on two major bowlers, Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard. Harmison has been a shadow of himself and Simon Jones we tend to use sparingly because the captain doesn't have confidence in him.

He doesn't look as though he's going to get people out and has taken very few wickets in the matches he's played for England. It's a big worry

If Flintoff isn't fit to bowl we have to play another bowler - probably James Anderson and he's going to be nervous as hell, short of match practice and not confident where the ball's going to go.

Somehow we have to get Flintoff and Harmison back to their best

Besides that, it's going to weaken the batting, which has been poor so far except from Andrew Strauss and the occasional knock from Marcus Trescothick and Graham Thorpe.

The reason England have played so well over the last year has been the emergence of Harmison and Flintoff.

They've played so well that until this tour they could have got into the Australian side on ability.

At the moment they wouldn't - this is the big worry. Our two world-class players in September are not performing like world-class players.

Somehow we have to get Flintoff and Harmison back to their best and rejuvenated for the last two Tests - that's the key for us because they're the hub of England's wheel.


WATCH AND LISTEN
Interview: Geoff Boycott



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England may have lost initiative
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