Harmy to stake Test claim
Harmison given opportunity to confirm England credentials
By Simon Dilger. Last Updated: 24/11/07 3:45pm
Inclusion in England's final warm up match has handed Steve Harmison a chance to prove himself worthy of selection for the first Test against Sri Lanka.
Coach Peter Moores named the 29-year-old Durham paceman in the team that will face a Sri Lanka Cricket Board President's XI in a first-class fixture beginning on Sunday.
Harmison will get an opportunity to stake his claim after only managing half-a-dozen overs earlier in the week, partly due to his kit being held up in transit from Johannesburg.
But, despite taking 13 wickets in two South African domestic matches, Harmison admits he is rusty.
"It is a finding-out process for Steve as well," said Moores.
"He will be interested on how he bowls in these conditions in what will be a first-class game - and he is going to start with his boots this time!
"With only three seamers there will be more overs to bowl. When you share it around you do not go through the same process as a bowler.
"You don't get your first, second and third spells and don't get to bowl when fatigued.
"He is the same as everybody else, it is a pretty even playing field and it is how you perform.
"We will make the call for the Test as we see it but we will pick who we think are the best bowlers.
"You don't want to take risks unless you have to and I am hoping through the fullness of time, building up to that Test match, it becomes clear to everybody within the selection process, what style of cricket we are playing, who best fits that, who's bowling best, who's batting best."
With only one batting place undecided, Paul Collingwood has been rested leaving Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara to face-off for the number six spot on Sunday. But the real contest will be in the bowling line up.
With Ryan Sidebottom, man of the series during October's one-day triumph, an automatic selection, James Anderson and Matthew Hoggard will dispute pace attack duties with Harmison.
Stuart Broad on the other hand has seen his stock take a dip after he was omitted from the side.
The absence of Broad however will add length to England's tail and could give Moores genuine concern with Muttiah Muralitharan so effective in closing out an innings
He added: "We try to make sure we get the right amount of cricket into our lads and also we give ourselves every chance to identify what we think is the best team for that first Test.
"There will be a lot of lads who will be very competitive knowing that they are fighting for a place in that Test match team.
"Stuart is fit and has done really well, so it was a really tough decision on who we went for.
"Jimmy has proved he is a very skilful bowler, he has lots of options, not just with the new ball but with his cutters and reverse swing. So he gets an opportunity.
"All the bowlers have been working very hard, knowing that we have to have a strategy to win the series, which means that we will have to play well from one to seven but also that eight to 11 are going to have to hang around and score runs.
"They know their responsibilities and have to work out their plans - but yes, Broad is our best batter of the bowlers."
In Monty Panesar England field a single spinner for the match and he is sure to have plenty of work to do in the series ahead.
"He will be better for a first-class game as you have to remember it is a long time since we played four-day or Test match cricket," said Moores.
"There will be more time here for him to bowl a spinner's spell. Monty has proved over the last 12 months that he enjoys bowling.
"He enjoys the contest. He likes to get stuck in and have a go and if Monty does that he will be fine.
"But it will be tough because it is a tough place to come and play."
Team: MP Vaughan (captain), AN Cook, IR Bell, KP Pietersen, OA Shah, RS Bopara, MJ Prior (wicketkeeper), SJ Harmison, MJ Hoggard, JM Anderson, MS Panesar.