Sun, Jul 15, 2007 - Page 24 News List

England selectors sweat on Harmison fitness for first Test


England face an anxious wait to find out if fast bowler Stephen Harmison is fit to play in next week's first Test against India at Lord's.

The selectors, due to announce the squad today, had their plans potentially disrupted after Harmison aggravated his "non-serious hernia" injury on Friday while playing in Durham's ongoing Championship match against Sussex at Hove.

Harmison, 28, originally sustained the injury at his Riverside home ground nearly a month ago during England's fourth Test win against the West Indies.

However, he opted against immediate surgery after being advised he could play in the India series and Durham's Friends Provident Trophy final against Hampshire on August 18 -- the county's first senior Lord's final.

"Steve has aggravated the injury and is pretty sore. England have been informed," Durham coach Geoff Cook said.

"There is no reason to suggest at the moment that surgery will need to be brought forward but all we can say is that we have to see how he is," he added.

If concerns remain over Harmison's fitness, England are likely to opt for a cautious selection policy, particularly as all-rounder Andrew Flintoff is still sidelined with an ankle injury.

This could lead them to name a 12-man squad with pace bowler James Anderson added to the side that completed a 3-0 Test series win against the West Indies.

Harmison, after a wayward start to the season, took 10 wickets in the final two Tests of the West Indies series.

But with England set to continue with their policy of three specialist pace bowlers in addition to left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, they will want to be sure all their quicks are fully fit for the challenge of playing against a strong Indian batting line-up.

England's only other concern remains the form of batsman Andrew Strauss.

The left-handed opener did score 77 in the first innings at Riverside but it was only his second fifty in his last 17 Test innings.

In the last month his only senior cricket has consisted of two successive noughts in two Twenty20 matches for Middlesex and a 17-ball one against India while captaining England Lions, the "A" side, in their ongoing tour match at Chelmsford.

But Strauss, putting his own form to one side, said he was confident England could give new coach Peter Moores a second successive Test series victory in his first season in charge.

"In the England team, we like to think we should beat everyone at home -- and India should be no exception to that, " Strauss said.

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