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.

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

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral