Harmison given last chance to stake Test claim

England have given Stephen Harmison one final chance to prove that he is ready for Test cricket by naming him in their side for this morning's match against the Sri Lankan Board President's XI. The three-day game is England's last before the First Test in Kandy on Saturday and Harmison will compete for a place in the starting XI with James Anderson.

Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara will be involved in a shoot-out too. Shah and Bopara are fighting for the No 6 spot in England's order and the batsman who impresses most is set to get first crack. Paul Collingwood and Ryan Sidebottom have been left out of the practice match, a move that implies strongly that both will be playing in a week's time. Stuart Broad's omission suggests that he has little chance of playing in the First Test.

England have invested a considerable amount of time, effort and money in Harmison this winter. After a disappointing, injury-plagued summer, the fast bowler was sent to South Africa, where he spent three weeks working on his form and fitness with the Highveld Lions. Thirteen wickets in two first-class matches hinted that he was back to his best but a poor six-over spell in England's opening match of the tour suggested otherwise.

England are keen to get Harmison involved because he offers something different. At times he may be wayward but there are few bowlers in the world who offer his pace, bounce and hostility. Matthew Hoggard and Sidebottom are expected to fill the two other fast-bowling spots. Each is a consistent performer and England may gamble with Harmison because of what he brings.

The game is something of a fitness test for Anderson too. Anderson has been complaining about discomfort in his back since the second day of the tour. At practice he is constantly seen stretching the affected area and he is very much aware of the problem. If Anderson fails to convince the selectors of his fitness in the next three days, Harmison will play in Kandy.

"We try to make sure that we get the right amount of cricket into our lads but also give ourselves every chance to identify what we think is the best team for the First Test," said Peter Moores, the England coach. "The good form of Colly and Ryan has allowed us the chance to look at a couple of players and see where we get to. Colly has been here before, he is playing well and he doesn't think he needs to play.

"It is a find-out process for Stephen [Harmison]. By his own admission he has said that he is still getting there and he needs some fine-tuning. He will take a full part in the game, and the fact that we are only playing four bowlers means he will get a good workout. There are no guarantees for anybody, but all those playing in this game have a great opportunity to go out and stake a claim for Kandy."

Moores said Broad was unfortunate to be left out. It is a decision that lengthens England's tail. "From a batting point of view there is one place up for grabs, from a bowling point of view, it depends on the pitch in Kandy and what happens here," said Moores. "The bowling is more open than the batting. Broad is the best batter of our bowlers but those who bat between eight and 11 will have to work out how they are going to score runs.

"Jimmy [Anderson] proved he is a very skilful bowler, not just with the new ball but with his cutters and reverse swing. It is tough on [Broad] who is desperately keen to get out there and show what he can do. It was always going to be a tough decision, and it will be even tougher before the Test match."

Team: M P Vaughan (capt), A N Cook, I R Bell, K P Pietersen, O A Shah, R S Bopara, M J Prior (wkt), S J Harmison, M J Hoggard, J M Anderson, M S Panesar.

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Businessman at desk circa 1950s
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea