Alastair Cook leads a strong MCC side against Sussex © Getty Images
As England's World Cup campaign fumbles on in the Caribbean the domestic season swings into action at Lord's on Friday as MCC take on the county champions Sussex. Since this fixture was reinstated in 2004 it has been a chance for England hopefuls to grab some early limelight and this year's MCC side would give the current national team a run for their money.

But for one not-so-young paceman the official start of 2007 comes at a vital stage of his career; when Steve Harmison should be at the peak of his powers he is fighting to show he still belongs in England colours. The memories of his first ball at Brisbane won't be erased quickly, but his selection for MCC is a clear sign that the selectors are saying 'get out there and show us what you are made of'.

He'll line up in a strong, quick bowling attack, arguably stronger than the one on show in West Indies, as his new-ball partner-in-crime Matthew Hoggard stretches his legs alongside Yorkshire team-mate Tim Bresnan and impressive Durham paceman Graham Onions. Stuart Broad was due to play, but his late call-up to the World Cup squad changed those plans, and reports following England A's tour of Bangladesh suggest Onions is not far away from the next step either. Throw in the legspin of Adil Rashid and it'll be a strong early-season test of Sussex's form.

The bowlers will be marshalled by Alastair Cook who, apart from his century at Perth, had a tough Ashes tour as the Australian attack dissected his technique. A healthy top-order is supplemented by Nottinghamshire's new recruit Will Jefferson, one-cap wonder Owais Shah and the talented Nick Compton.

"For us it's the chance to bring in a lot of players who are in or around the England set-up," Peter Moores, who will coach the MCC side against his former county, said. "It will be competitive, but it will be hard and fair which is how everyone wants it."

Sussex, meanwhile, are keeping some of their powder dry before the Championship defence starts against Kent next week. Chris Adams, Richard Montgomerie, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Jason Lewry are all missing from the first-choice side, but the strength of the squad is demonstrated by the team they can still field.

Michael Yardy, who captained England A in Bangladesh, takes control and a strong middle order also includes Murray Goodwin and Matt Prior. Their trump card, however, remains in the bowling with Mushtaq Ahmed who passed 100 wickets in a season for the second time in 2006. He'll be keen to put behind him a tough few months and get his mind back on cricket.

MCC (from) Alastair Cook (capt), Will Jefferson, Owais Shah, Nick Compton, Alex Gidman, Steven Davies (wk), Adil Rashid, Zoheb Sharif, Tim Bresnan, Graham Onions, Matthew Hoggard, Steve Harmison

Sussex (possible) Chris Nash, Carl Hopkinson, Michael Yardy (capt), Murray Goodwin, Matt Prior (wk), Robin Martin-Jenkins, Luke Wright, Ollie Rayner, Mushtaq Ahmed, James Kirtley, Chris Liddle.

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo