Attention wavered yesterday from the quality of Paul Collingwood's cover drive to the matter of Test selection. Would the England side batting on against Warwickshire – and there were not many cover drives in Collingwood's unbeaten 79 – be the England side who will confront Australia in the first Test at Cardiff on Wednesday?
Or had Stephen Harmison so discombobulated the Australians while playing for the England Lions at Worcester that he would force himself into the reckoning? The answers to these questions are almost certainly "Yes" and "No". But half the selection panel was at New Road to watch Harmison bounce out the great Australian hope, Phillip Hughes, for the second time in the match. The reminder of his powers could not have been more timely.
The other half was at Edgbaston to watch Collingwood spend some more time at the crease after Ravi Bopara had retired on reaching a century. When the England squad is named tomorrow it will probably contain 13 names (though these selectors are not of a mind to divulge such classified information given what the enemy could do with it), though it is possible that they could name 14 players to cover the opening two matches at Cardiff and Lord's, which are only three days apart. If the former course is chosen, Harmison may not make the cut, but if it is the latter he may easily be in.
England are more or less intent on fielding two spinners but doing so will still entail a huge intake of breath as the team-sheet is handed over. They will take seam bowling cover, both in case of injury and a last-minute change of mind provoked by the enormity of taking such a revolutionary step.
To the XI that was selected at Edgbaston, either Ryan Sidebottom or Graeme Onions will be added. England's coach Andy Flower is enamoured of Sidebottom's left-arm swing and the variation it provides and the selectors were keen not to give Australia an early sight of it in the Lions match. But Onions is the man in form and that attribute should not be overlooked. There is the feeling that Harmison will be summoned for Lord's simply because of the prospect of the extra zip in the pitch.
The spare batsman will be Ian Bell, though it was hardly ideal that he was out first ball at Worcester to a viciously late and full reverse swinging delivery from Brett Lee.
England should be in good heart after their work out in Birmingham. Play was delayed until 2.15pm yesterday because of heavy overnight rain and England decided to continue their second innings. There was time for Bopara, more fluent than previously, to ease his way to a century containing 13 fours and a six. Collingwood and Matt Prior, whose 50 came from 67 balls, helped themselves in regulation fashion.
It was all breezy, meaningless stuff and there seemed little point in continuing with the match after England declared at 319 for 3, 507 ahead. With 29 overs at Warwickshire's disposal it all seemed utterly without purpose. They were 27 for 3, there was a wicket each for Stuart Broad and Andrew Flintoff, who was again eye-catchingly quick, and at the earliest possible opportunity the match was called off. There were a few boos from the desultory crowd. To Cardiff, and quick.Reuse content