Test preview: Harmison's stiff back completes a sorry day

Old injury flares up to put paceman in doubt for first match of series and Tremlett also feels the strain. By Stephen Brenkley

No sooner were England's lofty one-day ambitions brought plunging to earth yesterday than their Test plans were tottering slightly. Stephen Harmison is being treated for a sore back and is doubtful for the first of only two warm-up matches before the five-day leg of the tour.

It is a condition from which Harmison often suffers at the start of tours, perhaps instigated by long flights and short hotel beds. But it is not what England required ahead of the First Test, which begins on 5 March.

Should he miss the first two-day game in Dunedin, he will have only the second to prepare for the Tests. Harmison's last match was the Third Test against Sri Lanka in December and he needs practice in the middle. He missed the opening Test in Sri Lanka with similar stiffness.

Such had been his indifferent form in the English summer that he was almost omitted for the second match. As it turned out, Harmison produced, albeit intermittently, a reasonable resemblance to an authentic fast bowler in the remaining two games. He has always been a trier despite what some of his notices might say and there were slight signs that he could still be what England want him to be.

His possible absence persuaded the team management to keep Chris Tremlett in New Zealand, at least until the opening Test. It was therefore not entirely without irony that Harmison's stiff back was accompanied by news that Tremlett had what is known as a precautionary scan on a slight side strain. It showed nothing of concern.

In all probability, England have already decided on their bowling attack for at least the opening salvos of the Test series. It will be that which finished in Sri Lanka – Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Ryan Sidebottom and Monty Panesar. Considering that Sri Lanka at times toyed with this quartet such a definite choice might be thought surprising.

Harmison's woes once more bring to prominence the state of modern touring for so-called specialist players. He now plays only Tests, and two two-day games were always likely to be barely enough to be match-honed. One is pushing it even more. Miss both and it is unthinkable for England to pick him.

Similar strictures apply to the other men who have joined the tour, captain Michael Vaughan, the returning Andrew Strauss, Hoggard and Panesar. Strauss has been playing state cricket in New Zealand and last week made 106 in a one-day match for Northern Districts, his first century since last May.

Hoggard and Panesar will have to find their rhythm quickly. Sidebottom, in the groove more than any England bowler, may have to shoulder the burden.

In Mirpur yesterday, Bang-ladesh took an improbable first-innings lead of 22 in the First Test against South Africa. This was probably more impressive than their feat against Australia two years ago when they led by 158, but that was after scoring 427 in their first innings.

Shahadat Hossain, the 21-year-old fast bowler, took 6 for 27 as South Africa were dismissed for 170 and the 20-year-old opener Junaid Siddique made 64 not out as Bangladesh extended their lead to 147. South Africa's AB de Villiers was unusually dismissed when he offered occasional bowler Mohammad Ashraful a return catch to a ball which had bounced twice.

Life and Style
Divers at Bouldnor Cliff underwater site in the Solent off the Isle of Wight, where the silt sample containing the einkorn DNA was found
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
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

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower