Injury-hit England keeping Mahmood's talents hidden

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The Independent Online

As England's injury problems mount - with the revelation yesterday that James Anderson will be out for two months - the selectors look set to call up Sajid Mahmood for his debut against Sri Lanka in next week's first Test at Lord's.

Mahmood was yesterday withdrawn from the four-day England A match against the tourists at Worcester which starts tomorrow as the powers-that-be wish to keep his firepower hidden for the time being.

England are already without Ashley Giles, Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Chris Tremlett and Anderson, who has a stress fracture of the back.

Mahmood will instead play for Lancashire in their County Championship match against Kent at Old Trafford starting today to keep in rhythm.

The England chairman of selectors, David Graveney, said: "[Sajid is] one of our quicker bowlers and [coach] Duncan [Fletcher] quite rightly sees at Test match level that you have to bowl with pace - in the absence of Anderson and Harmison he will be up there in terms of being a quicker bowler.

"Let's see what conditions we encounter at Lord's, but you can read into his withdrawal from the A game that he will be in the frame for the Test match. Liam Plunkett is also under consideration for the Test, but he will play for England A as Durham do not have a four-day game this week and this will provide him with match practice."

The Leicestershire fast bowler Stuart Broad and Gloucestershire seamer Jon Lewis have been called into the A team. Anderson is due to have a scan today while Glamorgan seamer Jones is also due to have the procedure after he felt a twinge in his left knee during Monday's C&G Trophy match.

Mahmood's withdrawal indicates that he is a favourite for the Test attack alongside Plunkett, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff, who is likely to be captain despite the possible return of the injured Michael Vaughan's vice-captain, Marcus Trescothick.

Shane Warne will have another chance to prove that Andrew Strauss is his "bunny" today as Hampshire play Middlesex at the Rose Bowl in the County Championship. Warne suggested he had the better of the England opener during last summer's Ashes before Strauss came good.

Hoggard will spearhead Yorkshire's attack with the Australian Jason Gillespie against Sussex in the First Division match. Geraint Jones returns for Kent's trip to Lancashire, while Robert Key is out since he is captain of the England A side.