Kerrigan in doubt for Lions tour
Middlesex's offspinning allrounder Ollie Rayner has been put on standby for the England Lions tour of Sri Lanka after concerns emerged about Simon Kerrigan's fitness. Kerrigan has a back problem and is due to be assessed by medical staff next week.
Rayner, an unusually tall spinner, claimed figures of 15 for 118 in a Championship match against Surrey at The Oval in September, the best figures by a Middlesex bowler since Fred Titmus in 1955. While his overall record remains modest, Rayner enjoyed by far the best season of his career in 2013, taking 46 first-class wickets at an average of 22.04, and, aged 28, should still have his best years ahead of him.
He was called up to the England Performance Squad at the end of 2008 but has never won national selection at any level. The retirement of Graeme Swann, however, and the struggles of Monty Panesar and Kerrigan have left the door ajar for several candidates who might previously have thought international cricket would prove a step too far.
Rayner will train with the Lions squad at the National Performance Centre in Loughborough this week, with the tour party set to depart at the end of January.
Kerrigan, having earned a reputation as the brightest young spinner in county cricket over recent seasons, endured a chastening Test debut at The Oval in August, where his eight overs were thrashed for 53 and he was not trusted to bowl in the second innings. While he was included in the England Performance Programme squad to tour Australia, the 24-year-old slow left-armer was subsequently withdrawn to continue to work on his game in the less-pressurised environments at Loughborough and Old Trafford.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo