Malcolm backs Harmison to hold the key

DEVON Malcolm says that fellow fast bowler Steve Harmison holds the key to England retaining the Ashes in Australia.Malcolm is keeping his fingers crossed that the 28-year-old Durham quick man overcomes a worrying side strain to take his place in all five winter Tests.

By Elvin King

DEVON Malcolm says that fellow fast bowler Steve Harmison holds the key to England retaining the Ashes in Australia.

Malcolm is keeping his fingers crossed that the 28-year-old Durham quick man overcomes a worrying side strain to take his place in all five winter Tests.

“Along with skipper Andrew Flintoff and batsman Kevin Pietersen, Steve is the big player for England this winter,” said Malcolm, who played in two Ashes series Down Under.

“Steve did very well last year when England won the Ashes, but he is going to have to improve on that.

“Australian wickets give plenty of bounce and have bags of pace. You won't find much swing so there is a bigger emphasis on pace.

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“Steve has this in abundance being able to bowl at over 90mph - and he also has height.

“The wickets he will find will be fair; and if he puts a lot in then he will get a lot out.

“Bowlers get rewarded for their hard work. But so do batsmen.

“If Steve just runs up and bowls there is a danger the Aussies could take him to the cleaners. But if he is firing on all cylinders, Steve could win England the series.”

Malcolm, who played for Suffolk in the Minor Counties Championship in 2004 and 2005, played all five tests when the Aussies retained the Ashes in 1990/91 and he was involved in the last four Tests when Australia won again in 1994/95.

The 43-year-old took 16 wickets in 1990/91 and 13 on his second Australian tour, and predicts a good series for England.

A veteran of 40 Tests, Malcolm added: “England will be without three players who had crucial roles last year.

“Much will depend on how their replacements perform.

“Losing Marcus Trescothick is a massive blow, and skipper Michael Vaughan's batting will also be missed although newcomers came in and did well this summer.

“Pace bowler Simon Jones chipped in with some terrific wickets in beating the Aussies in 2005, and his absence increases pressure on Steve.

“This is where we must look to stand-in skipper Andrew Flintoff to be a real force, while Kevin Pietersen will be another huge player and like Freddie someone who can take charge of games.”

Malcolm, who is confident runs will flow from Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell, will be in Perth to watch the third Test next month.

Two days before the start of that game he will be playing in a legends match at the famous WACCA ground with the England team led by Ian Botham and the Australians by Dennis Lillee.

Malcolm is still playing regular club cricket and his Dunstall side finished third in the Derbyshire Premier League behind champions Ockbrook, who include another former Suffolk pace man, Trevor Smith.

And he keeps an interest in Suffolk's affairs and was pleased to see his professional successor at the county - Chris Schofield - do so well.

“Chris has quite rightly earned himself a one-year contract with Surrey and this proves that the Minor Counties Championship still has a place in the English game,” said Malcolm.

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