Western Australia v England XI, Perth, 1st day December 9, 2006

Harmison still a concern for England

Close Western Australia 8 for 309 (Pomersbach 90*, Anderson 3-47) v England XI

James Anderson was the best of England's bowlers © Getty Images
James Anderson pressed his case to be retained in the Test team with a quality spell of bowling and Monty Panesar starred with the ball and in the field as England enjoyed a useful work-out against Western Australia at Perth. Sajid Mahmood also chipped in with two good wickets, and by the close of the first day, the home side were 8 for 309, with Luke Pomersbach making an unbeaten 90.

The form of Steve Harmison, however, was once again a big worry for England. He bowled 21 overs for 99 in the day, none whatsoever in the session after lunch, and spent an equal amount of time in the pavilion as on the pitch. He was as wayward and lacklustre as he had been at Adelaide, and his appetite for the struggle visibly sapped when Ashley Giles dropped a regulation snick at second slip, to reprieve Chris Rogers on 12.

Rogers is the most prolific scorer in the Pura Cup this season, with 638 runs from four games, and he responded to the reprieve by smacking Harmison for consecutive fours, before going on to make a hard-hitting 66. Harmison found neither end to be to his liking, and could barely bring himself to celebrate when did eventually break through in his second over after tea, trapping Australia's newest Test recruit, Adam Voges, lbw for 31.

In the aftermath of England's defeat at Adelaide, Duncan Fletcher insinuated that Harmison had only been included in that side as a precaution, in case England lost the toss and were asked to bowl first. There is no room for such equivocation now, however, with the series teetering on the brink, and Anderson's return to form was as timely for him as it was intriguing for the selectors.

Finding extra pace and carry from the Lillee-Marsh End, Anderson bowled nine overs for nine runs in the morning, and a further seven for ten after lunch. He grabbed a wicket on each occasion, dismissing David Bandy for 5 and Rogers for 66, both caught behind by Chris Read. After tea he returned with the new ball and held a sharp caught-and-bowled to remove Brett Dorey.

Mahmood was less accurate than Anderson but more of a shock factor when he did get it right, as he did twice. Shaun Marsh (59) fell to a sensational left-handed scoop from Read that was arguably the most dynamic moment that England have produced in the field so far this tour, while Marcus North was caught at second slip by Ed Joyce for 18. Read did, however, blot his copybook with a missed stumping against Aaron Heal

Panesar was the unlucky bowler, but he nevertheless produced a feisty spell with three men around the bat, and gained vengeance over Luke Ronchi - the man who had slapped him around at Lilac Hill on Friday - by having him caught at slip for just 3. He didn't extract huge turn but was accurate, and thought he had nailed Marcus North early in his innings as well. Umpire Bruce Bennett turned down the appeal, however, and at the end of the over, Panesar snatched his jumper back and stalked down to fine-leg in a fury.

But there was no keeping Panesar out of the action, and to the delight of a decent crowd, he pulled off a direct hit run-out from short midwicket, as Heal was called through by Pomersbach for a suicidal single. He distinctly outshone the hapless Giles, who was only playing because Liam Plunkett suffered a dislocated finger at Lilac Hill. Giles didn't appear until the 53rd over of the day, and was taken for 33 in eight overs, including a straight swipe for six from Pomersbach.

Lurking in the outfield all day was Michael Vaughan, playing his first game with the England side since February amid speculation he could join the Ashes squad at some point. He briefly took charge of the side as well, when Andrew Strauss had to leave the field for an over, to add further confusion to England's convoluted captaincy question.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo