Harmison left out of first Test

LONDON; Stephen Harmison has failed to win back his place in the England side after being left out Sunday of their 13-man squad for the first Ashes Test against Australia at Cardiff starting on Wednesday.

The news may come as a relief to Australia opener Phillip Hughes who was twice dismissed by short-pitched Harmison deliveries during the tourists’ drawn final warm-up match this week against the England Lions at Worcester. The 30-year-old paceman took six wickets in all for the Lions against Australia but the fast bowler, whose fiery new ball spell against Australia at Lord’s four years ago set the tone for England’s Ashes triumph, has been omitted after being dropped from the side during this year’s West Indies’ tour.

Instead fellow Durham quick Graham Onions, who took 10 wickets in England’s 2-0 home series triumph over the West Indies, his debut Test campaign, has been added to the England team that drew this week’s practice match against Warwickshire while Lions captain Ian Bell was included as batting cover. Injury-prone all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, the hero of England’s 2005 Ashes series win, returns to the squad following a knee injury and his recall means there is no place for Tim Bresnan.

“We were delighted with the way in which the team performed in the warm-up match at Edgbaston and it was very encouraging to see Andrew Flintoff bowl so well on his return to the side,” said national selector Geoff Miller after announcing the squad.

“We were keen to show consistency in selection and retain the nucleus of the side that performed so well against West Indies in the Test series earlier this summer,” the former England off-spinner added.

“Graham Onions has made an excellent start to his Test career and gives us a different option when we consider the make-up of our bowling attack and the type of conditions we will encounter. Ian Bell has performed well in county cricket this summer and he will act as cover batsman for this Test Match should any of our established batsmen be unavailable through injury.”

Left-arm spinner Monty Panesar is back in favour after missing the series against the West Indies while both Harmison and left-arm quick Ryan Sidebottom have been told by Miller not to give up on their Ashes hopes.

“There is healthy competition for places in our starting line-up at present and the strong performance by the England Lions against Australia at Worcester demonstrated that we are starting to develop a larger squad of players who can compete effectively with international class players,” he said.

SQUAD: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wkt), Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Monty Panesar, Ian Bell, Graham Onions.