Steve Harmison thinks that England should try and strengthen their batting with the inclusion of Dawid Malan and Ollie Pope in their XI for the third Test against India at Headingley. As for the seam attack, Harmison put Craig Overton ahead of Saqib Mahmood in his team, as Mark Wood’s replacement.
England’s heavy 151-run defeat in the second Test at Lord’s further magnified their long-standing top-order woes. Both Rory Burns and Dom Sibley bagged ducks in the second innings, while Haseeb Hameed too, returned with 0 and 9 on his Test comeback.
The hosts have now roped in Dawid Malan, whose last Test appearance dates back to August 2018, against the same opponent. Steve Harmison believes that the left-hander should be an instant fit in the England XI for the third Test in Leeds, beginning Wednesday.
“Yeah, he does (play), he goes in at No. 3,” Harmison said of Malan during a conversation with ESPNcricinfo. “He brings in some experience and that’s what you need at this moment of time. He’s 33, he’s been in the Test team before. You can call on his experience in first-class cricket to go in and hopefully give some influence at the top because England’s top three have been a bit of a shambles in recent past and I think they hit an all-time low at Lord’s.”
“I still think three fast-bowlers are enough,” said Harmison, who bagged 226 wickets from 63 Tests for England. “Potentially bring Ollie Pope back in. Pope at 5, Bairstow at 6, Buttler at 7, Moeen at 8 followed by three seamers. The seamers have to be durable and same throughout so Saqib Mahmood misses out.
“So it’ll be Overton, Robinson and Anderson. It’ll be a good and flat pitch at Headingley and I think England will go down and pick three line bowlers who will hit the deck and nibble around a little bit if it’s there on offer. That would be the way I’d go.
“England might do differently though with a four-fast bowler attack which’d mean Pope missing out and Mahmood making his debut. But that would make for a weak middle-order. I think runs on the board is what England needs as a confidence booster.”
The hosts will also miss the services of speedster Mark Wood, who has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. They had roped in Saqib Mahmood as an injury cover, after Stuart Broad was ruled out of the entire series, ahead of the Lord’s Test. While Harmison was in all praise for Mahmood, he felt that England should rather go for a 3-1 seam attack, with Craig Overton replacing Wood.
“For Saqib Mahmood, it’s going to be a big ask to play Test match cricket,” said the 42-year-old.
“What Mahmood does bring, is a bit more pace than the other three. He has a skiddy trajectory and he does swing the ball both conventionally and with the reverse-swinging ball. So he’s an exciting proposition. When he first came on the scene, he blasted it and bowled really well and was then found out a little bit, as all players do.
"But he went away back to Lancashire, worked hard, spent the year away from the spotlight and he came back this summer with the white ball and bowled well. And he’s now put himself in to potentially make his Test debut for England.
“Whether he’ll play or not, I’m not too sure. I think Overton will get a nod, alongside Robinson and Anderson. Whether England plays four fast bowlers, or they strengthen the batting - they might bring Ollie Pope in. I don’t think Sam Curran will play."