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England upbeat despite rash of injuries

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, May 2 (Reuters) Lancashire fast bowler Sajid Mahmood could make his debut in the first test against Sri Lanka next week because of injuries to three strike bowlers, England chairman of selectors David Graveney said today.

James Anderson is the third paceman to go down injured after Simon Jones and Stephen Harmison.

England are already expected to be missing captain Michael Vaughan and experienced spinner Ashley Giles for the test starting at Lord's on May 11.

Vaughan, who had some net practice on Tuesday, was ''pretty upbeat'' about his prospects of playing at some point in the three-match series, Graveney said.

For any player to be considered for the first test ''They have to play a four-day game before,'' Graveney told reporters.

''So it would seem Harmison, Anderson and Jones would not be considered.'' Anderson is likely to be out for six weeks with a stress fracture in his back, Harmison has not played since March because of a shin problem and Jones left the field yesterday with a knee injury.

Giles is recovering from a hernia operation and Vaughan has not played since last year's tour of Pakistan because of a knee problem.

LOFTY BOWLER England's casualty list has probably paved the way for Mahmood to make his international debut.

The lofty Mahmood, 24 and the cousin of Olympic boxer Amir Khan, was called up as an injury replacement during the one-day series in India but has yet to make a test squad.

''The injuries are a blow,'' Graveney said ''But it also enables some young guys to get in the side. As we've shown in the last test in India we had five guys down and you have to mention the level of performance of those who came in.'' England, captained by all rounder Andrew Flintoff, won the third test in India earlier this year with a makeshift team to square the series.

Flintoff was likely to take the helm again at Lord's, Graveney said, though the exact make-up of the squad would be finalised at a selectors' meeting next weekend.

''He captained one of the most memorable victories which was the last test England played. You can draw your own conclusions from that.'' SUB SUCCESS Vice-captain Marcus Trescothick, who returned home suddenly from the India tour citing personal reasons and a virus, would be one of the first names on the selectors' list and was unlikely to be shifted from his opener's slot despite the success of replacement Alastair Cook.

''I personally think he's one of the best openers in the world so why change? Graveney said.

England play five one-day matches against Sri Lanka as well hosting Pakistan in similar test and one-day series tour between May and September .

Graveney was alongside batsman Kevin Pietersen at the launch of a scheme dubbed urban cricket to offer basic equipment to children across Britain.

Organisers said last year's Ashes win over Australia had led to a surge in interest in cricket with 48 per cent more players and a 68 per cent increase in demand for equipment.

The Ashes rematch starting in November was evidently on Pietersen's mind. ''Let's just hope that by the time the Brisbane test comes round that we've got a full strength team and we can smack them in Australia,'' he said.

Reuters PM RN2125

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