Need for speed at Old Trafford

Press Releasein Cricket
Lancashire's Pete Marron could be set for more pats on the back from England if he produces an Old Trafford wicket helpful to Steve Harmison and co.

With the exception of Nottinghamshire left-armer Ryan Sidebottom, England's seamers have fallen well short of their best in the current npower Test series against the West Indies.

Despite a convincing innings and 283-run victory at Headingley last week, which gave England a 1-0 advantage in the four-match series, the pace attack spearheaded by Harmison has lacked the necessary accuracy and penetration.

But as Manchester gears up to stage Thursday's third Test, the Three Lions are hoping Old Trafford's traditional fast and bouncy wicket produced by Marron holds to form to provide England's bowlers with a golden opportunity of wrapping up the series.

Harmison, in particular, will be relishing taking centre-stage on a potentially lightning-quick surface that helped him destroy Pakistan last summer with match figures of 11-76.

"I think all the players enjoy the wickets at Old Trafford because the groundsman, Pete Marron, always prepares good wickets for batsmen and bowlers," said England chairman of selectors David Graveney.

"Our bowlers certainly enjoyed it last year because it had a bit of bounce and pace in it - you only have to look at how Harmy bowled there to realise that."

Harmison grabbed a first innings haul of 6-19 last summer when Pakistan were overwhelmed at Old Trafford by an innings and 120 runs.

And captain Michael Vaughan is hopeful lightning will strike twice for the Durham quick at one of his favourite Test venues.

Vaughan said: "Steve has openly admitted he hasn't had the best six months.

"Old Trafford has always been a great ground for him, he'll be looking to reproduce the performance he showed against Pakistan last year."

Sidebottom will take his place in England's unchanged line-up on Thursday having been held up as a shining example of the rewards for performing in county cricket.

The 29-year-old left-arm seamer could have been forgiven for believing his days of international cricket were over having been discarded by previous coach Duncan Fletcher following one wicketless Test in 2001.

But the appointment of new coach Peter Moores at the start of this summer, coupled with injuries to Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard and other candidates, gave Sidebottom an opportunity he seized at Headingley, when he claimed eight wickets.

"The selection of Ryan speaks volumes for our domestic game," claimed Graveney.

Lancashire's James Anderson is on standby for the third Test.

Exclusive By Gary York The Burnley Citizen
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