England coach Duncan Fletcher has admitted he is unsure whether key pace bowler Steve Harmison will be able to play in next week’s opening Ashes test.
The Durham seamer, 28, was rested for today’s final warm-up match against South Australia as a precaution after waking up with a back strain.
Fletcher claimed he had suffered an injury similar to the one which afflicted him in the summer’s home test fixtures, and revealed that the exact extent of the problem remains a mystery.
"It’s similar to the injury he had during the summer," he said. "He went away and had a scan, which was pretty inconclusive again, as it was in the summer.
"He feels a bit of pain in the back, stiffness.
"In the summer, one must remember that when he did bowl, it didn’t get worse, it just irritated him but he could bowl for periods of time.
"He had an injection and we’ll just see how he feels tomorrow, bowling a bit in the nets.
"If he does feel all right, just see how he reacts to the number of balls he bowls."
And Fletcher refused to be drawn on his key strike bowler’s chances of featuring in Brisbane on November 23.
He added: "It’s very difficult to say. I hope he does play. He’s an important part of the side, he had an effective role in the Ashes last year.
"He’s been an effective bowler for us. The other bowlers feed off him and we just hope that he’s fine and ready to play in the Test match.
"We’ve just got to monitor the number of balls he bowls because he’s still got to get some mileage in his legs, and we’re going to just have make sure he’s out there bowling a lot over the next two or three days.
"That’s a huge selection decision. That’s not final yet. We just haven’t decided."
The timing of Harmison’s injury could not have come at a worse time for England, following opening batsman Marcus Trescothick’s decision to return home with a stress-related injury earlier this week.
And with his batting options already depleted, Fletcher claims he will not rush a decision which could have huge implications for his side’s bowling strength.
"We were comfortable when we came over with Trescothick playing," he said.
"But now with having lost Trescothick, who is a huge asset to the side, we’ve just got to think about it over the next three or four days."
England bowled well in Harmison’s absence to reduce South Australia to 247 for seven declared on the opening day of the tour match - before closing on 24 for one - and Fletcher added: "There was good discipline, good control."