Harmison to feature for Durham ahead of likely Test recall

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The Independent Online

England are keeping their options open over the matter of Steve Harmison's return to the Test match fold after giving Durham clearance to select the fast bowler for today's Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy match against Leicestershire at the Riverside.

Harmison, sidelined for two months after suffering a shin injury in India in March, will follow his successful appearance against Sussex in the same competition last Wednesday, when he bowled 11 overs and took four wickets.

It may or may not be a prelude to a Harmison recall for Friday's third Test at Trent Bridge but, in any event, assuming Monty Panesar is retained as a spin option, his readiness will mean a nervous wait for Liam Plunkett and Sajid Mahmood to see who keeps his place, although on the basis of Edgbaston form it is unlikely Plunkett will make way.

Harmison's Durham team-mate did himself no favours with a nervous and at times poor performance in the opening Test at Lord's but improved considerably in Birmingham and his three-wicket spell with the new ball yesterday, after recovering from a shoulder injury suffered on Friday, confirmed his place ahead of Lancashire's Mahmood in the pecking order.

Plunkett took three wickets for seven runs in six overs and two balls after England captain Andrew Flintoff invited him to share the second new ball with Matthew Hoggard, having Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekera caught at gully from successive deliveries before Lasith Malinga survived the hat-trick attempt.

He finished off by dismissing Sri Lanka's centurion, Michael Vandort, who was caught behind, to end with match figures of 6-60 as Sri Lanka, who had been on top for the first hour and threatened to set England a difficult target, collapsed from 219-5 to 231 all out.

Mahmood did not have an opportunity to bowl yesterday, when Plunkett, who has thrived in the conditions at Edgbaston, was rightly see as the likelier threat. It was a substantial contrast with his showing at Lord's, where he was so nervous about making his home debut at the game's headquarters that - after he bowled poorly in the first innings - questions were raised about his readiness to perform at the highest level.

He looked much more the part in the second innings, where figures of 1-85 did not really do him justice, but it has taken his performance here to reaffirm his quality.