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Ashes 2021/22

‘We started bowling bouncers at KP and he didn’t like it’ – Steve Harmison opens up on the ‘batsman versus bowlers situation’ during the 06/07 Ashes

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Steve Harmison, who has questioned Joe Root’s criticism of England’s bowlers after the second Ashes Test, has revealed an incident from his playing days in which there was a “batsman versus bowlers situation” between England’s seamers and Kevin Pietersen.

Speaking after second Test, Root said: “If you look at the first innings in particular I thought we were just a little bit short with the ball, we didn’t challenge them enough. We need to be braver, we need to get the ball up there. As soon as we did that in the second innings, the amount of chances we created and how dangerous we looked, that’s the benchmark for us moving forwards. We weren’t brave enough at times to get the ball up there and get them driving.

“You’re looking at half a metre at times. When you’re in the moment, and the amount of times they played and missed and we beat the bat again, you feel like you’re doing the right thing. You just have to be that little bit braver, get the ball up there and accept that every now and then you’re going to get driven, but with the skill and ability we have we’re going to create chances.”


Harmison said on talkSPORT’s Following On Cricket Podcast that he would not have responded well had former England captain Michael Vaughan said something similar during his playing days. “If Vaughany had said that after what we had just done, I think me, Hoggard, Flintoff, Jones would have been standing at the top of the stairs and he wouldn’t have even got through the threshold of the door,” he said.

Harmison, speaking on behalf of Genting Casino, worried that Root’s comments might have split the dressing room. “What’s worrying about Root’s comments is that his words directed at the bowlers turns any team meeting into a batsman vs bowlers situation,” he said. “The bowlers might see Buttler face 200 balls on a fifth day pitch as England only score 230 and 190 and think that’s not good enough and say ‘I won’t let anyone have a go at me like that. You can tell me to pitch it up all you want but you lot have to score runs.’ That’s when it turns nasty in dressing rooms and all of a sudden fractions come – there’s groups of twos and threes forming – and it tends to be the bowling unit that stays together and has a go at the batsman.”

He then revealed how a similar rift revealed itself during his playing days, also on an Ashes tour that had begun to go wrong for England. With England 2-0 down in the 2006/07 Ashes, Harmison and his fellow seamers Jon Lewis and Matthew Hoggard became frustrated with Kevin Pietersen during a net session, leading to a bust up.

“Net situations can get really spicy after these kinds of comments are made because they could get out of hand, I remember on the 2006/07 tour and in Perth we were in a net and Kevin Pietersen had a go at us. We were bowling with old balls and then he started taking the mick and being a showman. Hoggy was with me and Jon Lewis, and he got three brand new balls and we started bowling bouncers at KP and he didn’t like it. He came storming down after the seventh ball went over his head and he started shouting and screaming ‘what the hell are you lot doing!’ and Hoggy said ‘if you act like that with old balls then we’ll bowl with new balls. we’re doing you a favour by bowling with old balls and we want to use the new ones.’

“All of a sudden a batsman versus bowlers situation came up, the whole thing blew up. It was something that happens all the time in nets, but because we were in a tough situation going into the third Test, Hoggard and Pietersen were at each other and the bowlers stuck together and KP tried to show how he was flamboyant and we took offence as we felt it wasn’t proper cricket. In the end, Freddie [Andrew Flintoff] said ‘come on children, stop being childish, let’s go back to doing things properly’, and Kevin had a great net after that. But it got to a point where there was a bad situation when something was said against the bowling unit and Root has done something similar by talking about the bowling unit after the second Test.”

On that occasion, England went on to lose 5-0.

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