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Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 11:09 UK

Harmison detects Aussie weakness

Steve Harmison
Harmison made life difficult for Australia's batsmen at New Road

Steve Harmison says Australia's 2009 team lack the swagger and confidence of their illustrious predecessors.

Harmison, a key part of England's 2005 Ashes triumph, has been left out of the 16-man squad for the upcoming series.

But a fired-up Harmison saw Australia's batting line-up at first hand as he took 3-67 against them for the England Lions in the warm-up game at Worcester.

"One thing I picked up on is they are not as brash and confident as they normally are," said Harmison.

"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.

"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.

"Maybe it is to do with gelling together or whether they don't have the big players of recent years."

606: DEBATE

"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," he added.

Australia hold the Ashes after obliterating England 5-0 in the last series down under, but the likes of Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Justin Langer, Mathew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist have all stood down from Test cricket since then.

Matthew Hoggard, who played a prominent role in England's 2005 Ashes win, agreed with Harmison's assessment of the current Australian side.

"They lack the big names and the people that have been here and done it before," Hoggard told BBC Sport.

"A lot of these guys haven't played over in England in an Ashes series before, so they don't know what to expect from an Ashes summer.

Ricky Ponting
Ponting was struck by Harmison in the first Ashes Test 2005

"They are not as confident, they have not got the wins underneath their belt against England that all the old people who have retired have."

Australia finished the first day of their warm-up game against England's second string on 337-8 as Michael Hussey hit an unbeaten 143, his 50th first-class century.

But in an opening reminiscent of the explosive start to the 2005 Ashes series, when Harmison terrorised Australia's batsmen, the 30-year-old clattered opener Phil Hughes with his first ball before dismissing him in the fourth over.

Harmison, who has not played Test cricket since being dropped in Antigua in February, added the scalps of Simon Katich for 95 and Brett Lee to give the England selectors a timely reminder of his prowess.

The enigmatic bowler, who was playing for a fourth time against Australia, says he is "desperate" to regain a place in the England squad but admitted the first Ashes Test in Cardiff, which starts on 8 July, may come too soon for him.

"I probably would not play at Cardiff. That would be a pleasant surprise. All the talk is of playing two spinners down there," he said.

They've seen I want to play and can cause Australia problems. It is up to them whether they want to pick me or not

Steve Harmison

"If the chance came, I would jump at the chance. I'd love to play. I'm desperate to play for England."

A more realistic goal for Harmison may be a role at the second Test at Lord's, which starts on 16 July.

"I couldn't be disappointed about not being in the 16-man performance squad because of the way England have bowled in recent Tests - I didn't fit in," he acknowledged.

"Graham Onions and Tim Bresnan have bowled well and been the pick-out bowlers at the start of the summer, Ryan Sidebottom is fit, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad are bowling well enough and Freddie Flintoff is back fit.

"But I want to play for England - and the day I stop wanting to play for England is the day I tell them that I've had enough.

"They've seen I want to play and can cause Australia problems. It is up to them whether they want to pick me or not."

And Hoggard backed his former England team-mate to perform if called upon this summer.

"If there is many better bowlers than Harmison in the England aisle, when he is bowling like he has been doing, then it is a very good set of bowlers," said Hoggard.

"Harmison's got height, he's got pace, he's very awkward and when he's bowling well I don't think there is anybody here who can match him."



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see also
Hussey ton helps Aussies recover
01 Jul 09 |  Australia
Ashes warm-up photos
04 Jul 09 |  England
Flintoff stars in Lancashire win
25 Jun 09 |  Counties
Ashes hero Vaughan calls it quits
30 Jun 09 |  Cricket
England omit Vaughan and Harmison
22 Jun 09 |  England
Flintoff shines on shock return
11 Jun 09 |  Lancashire
I'll be fit for Ashes - Flintoff
09 Jun 09 |  England
Injured Flintoff out of Twenty20
27 May 09 |  England
Moores backs Flintoff inclusion
18 Jun 09 |  England
Injury progress lifts Pietersen
25 Jun 09 |  Cricket


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