Test spots up for grabs, says England captain

Published: Sunday, November 25, 2007, 12:38 [IST]
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Colombo: England start their lone first-class match on the Sri Lankan tour here on Sunday hoping to fill the blanks in the Test squad for the series starting in a week's time.

The three-day match against the Sri Lanka Cricket XI at the Nondescripts Club is the tourists' last opportunity to strike form ahead of the first of three back-to-back Tests starting in Kandy on December 1.

The tour opener earlier this week against the same opposition, where all 16 England players were allowed to take the field, saw the hosts pile up 500-5 and restrict the tourists to 315-6.

But on Sunday only 11 will play and England captain Michael Vaughan said performances in the match will help him finalise the team for the Kandy Test.

"There are still a couple of places up for grabs and we have to make sure that, come Kandy on December 1, we get our eleven right," said Vaughan.

"So there might be a couple of spaces where we can give players a chance and rest a couple of players who have played a lot of cricket recently.

"But ideally you want to play as many players as possible in this three-day game who are going to be playing in the Test match."

The first five batting spots are settled with Vaughan opening with Alastair Cook, followed by Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood.

Except for Pietersen, who was dismissed for four, the rest had a good outing in the opening match with Cook top-scoring with 63 and Collingwood making 52 before both retired to give others a chance at the crease.

Owais Shah, who also retired after making 38, and Ravi Bopara, who returned unbeaten on 40, are expected to contest the number six Test spot.

With wicket-keeper Matt Prior and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar certain to play in Kandy, England need to decide the three fast bowling places among five hopefuls.

Steve Harmison, who joined the squad late having proved his fitness in South Africa, will be keenly watched after sending down just six overs in the previous match.

Left-armer Ryan Sidebottom, Matthew Hoggard, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are the others in line to share the new ball attack.

Tillekeratne Dilshan will lead the home team in a bid to regain his Test place after being ignored for the recent Australian tour and the Kandy Test.

The local side also includes left-handed opener Upul Tharanga, who was on Friday named for the first Test after scoring 112 against England in the tour opener.


England: Michael Vaughan (capt), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Owais Shah, Ravi Bopara, Philip Mustard, Matthew Prior, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Matthew Hoggard, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann.

Sri Lanka Cricket XI: Tillekeratne Dilshan (capt), Upul Tharanga, Mahela Udawatte, Malinda Warnapura, Jehan Mubarak, Chamara Kapugedara, Kaushal Silva (wicket-keeper), Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Chanaka Welagedera, Ishara Amerasinghe and Sujeewa de Silva.


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