England's A side will be monitored carefully in the next four days by selectors considering their options for the opening Test as they attempt to disrupt Sri Lanka's preparations in their final warmup match.
With injuries decimating England's preparation for the start of the three-Test series at Lord's next Thursday - captain Michael Vaughan (knee), Simon Jones (knee),
Steve Harmison (shin), James Anderson (back) and Warwickshire's Ashley Giles (hernia) will all be missing - the selectors' eyes will turn to the A team's four-day contest with the tourists starting at Worcester this morning. They have withdrawn Lancashire seamer Sajid Mahmood from the match at New Road for "tactical reasons" and now 11 cricketers aiming to force their way into the senior England side have been left with the perfect stage to showcase their talents.
Assuming Mahmood has been pencilled in for his debut at Lord's, it leaves several bowlers seeking inclusion with Gloucestershire's Jon Lewis, emerging Leicester-shire seamer Stuart Broad and Durham's Liam Plunkett facing a bowl-out against the Sri Lankans.
Chairman of selectors David Graveney said: "The A game is a key match. We all know how opposition countries put our team under pressure leading up to Test matches.
"I would be expecting these guys to impress to the point of making it extremely difficult for Sri Lanka to have pressure-free practice."
It is a theme which will be echoed by Kent's Robert Key, who will be leading the side after a shoulder injury prevented him from earning a recall through the numerous injuries which blighted England's winter.
The 27-year-old, who played the last of his 15 Tests two winters ago on the tour to South Africa, said: "I enjoy
this system and this new way of playing A team cricket and I think it's important.
"On the Ashes tour I went on a few years ago we came up against an A team and you come against them a lot on other tours.
"They're good to experience b ecause you're playing against guys who you possibly may be playing against in Test cricket so it's not such a big step up and you know a few of the guys you're coming up against. It's also important to make you feel a part of things and you know that your hard work is being recognised."
Key heads a long list of players hoping to force their way back into the selectors' thinking, including wicket-keeper Chris Read who has been overlooked since Geraint Jones took over behind the stumps two years ago.
Alastair Cook and Owais Shah, who impressed in the drawn Test series in India after flying out as replacements to the original party, also have a point to prove.
Warwickshire off-spinner Alex Loudon, Middlesex batsman Ed Joyce, Surrey allrounder Rikki Clarke and Worcestershire Kabir Ali also want to attract the selectors' interest.