Fast bowler Steve Harmison’s return to the England team was put on hold Tuesday when he was left out of the starting eleven for the third Test against South Africa, starting at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Harmison and fellow fast bowler Stuart Broad were the two men to miss out from a 13-man squad when captain Michael Vaughan announced the team during his pre-match captain’s press conference.
Left-arm swing bowler Ryan Sidebottom returns from injury together with all-rounder Paul Collingwood, who was dropped for the second Test at Leeds, where South Africa won by ten wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the four-match series. Broad and Darren Pattinson are the players dropped from that team.
Vaughan said Harmison missed out when it was decided to go into the match with four specialist bowlers instead of five.
”We felt that on this ground the depth in batting would help,” said Vaughan.
”We have three strong seamers in Sidebottom, [James] Anderson and Freddie [Flintoff]. We feel [left-arm spinner] Monty [Panesar] will do a lot more bowling here, while Collingwood’s style of bowling could be useful at Edgbaston.”
Collingwood will bat at number six, with Flintoff at seven and wicketkeeper Tim Ambrose, who went in at number six in Leeds, dropping down to eight.
Harmison was close to selection, according to Vaughan.
”That’s why we brought him back into the squad. That’s a sign for him that we think he’s got a chance of getting back in. He’s not in the eleven this week but who’s to say he won’t be in the eleven at the Oval the week after.”
Vaughan said he expected England to hit back after their defeat in Leeds.
”I’m confident we can produce a performance to get the result we want,” he said.
”The key to Headingley was getting 200 in the first innings. We didn’t get anywhere near giving ourselves a chance of winning that game. What we’ve got to do in this Test is start well and try to get ahead of the South Africans as quickly as we can.”
He said he did not feel under any undue pressure after scoring only 23 runs in his first three innings in the series.
”I’ve had these blips in form and come through them. I always analyse my batting and I believe in this series I’ve had three decent balls, but there were also a couple of them that I could have done better with.
”I’m hitting the ball well and I believe I can get a big score this week if I get off to a good start. I’ve had a week off and I’ve had a good week’s practice, hitting balls. In the past it’s paid off and hopefully it will be the same this week.”
Vaughan was unapologetic about his post-match comment that the team had been unsettled by the selection of the team for the second Test, which led to selection chairperson Geoff Miller seeking clarity from the captain.
”I always try and speak honestly,” he said. ”I don’t really regret it.”
England: Andrew Strauss, Alastair Cook, Michael Vaughan (captain), Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Tim Ambrose, James Anderson, Ryan Sidebottom, Monty Panesar.
South Africa (probable): Graeme Smith (captain), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince, AB de Villiers, Mark Boucher, Morne Morkel, Paul Harris, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini.
Umpires: Aleem Dar (Pakistan), Steve Davis (Australia).
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka). — AFP