Graham Onions looks certain to make his comeback for Durham against Yorkshire at Headingley but will not be able to team up with Steve Harmison for several weeks.
Although an X-ray in Hampshire failed to reveal a break, a scan has now shown that Harmison does have a small fracture in his lower left forearm.
With opening batsman Mark Stoneman out for at least six weeks with a broken hand, Will Smith is to make his first County Championship appearance since he was persuaded to step down from the captaincy last May.
Although Onions was named in the squad, coach Geoff Cook hinted that he wasn’t certain to play. “He’s worked incredibly hard throughout his rehabilitation,” said Cook. “But it’s important that we time his return correctly. There is a lot of four-day cricket over the next two months.”
Harmison suffered his injury when he was unable to evade a straight drive by skipper Phil Mustard while batting on the second morning at the Rose Bowl.
Having played in only half of last season’s Championship games, he is likely to miss the home games against Sussex and Warwickshire this month. Durham have a break in early May and it is hoped he will be ready for the visit of Somerset on May 10.
Smith will be back in the opening position he was originally signed from Nottinghamshire to fill in 2007. He lost his place in mid-season and returned for the fourth match the following year in the No 3 slot, making such a success of it that Dale Benkenstein nominated him to take over the captaincy.
Although Durham easily retained the title in 2009, Smith’s form suffered and his reign ended after the first defeat for 23 Championship games at Trent Bridge. But he has retained his determination to get back to his 2008 form and claimed recently that after his winter work he was fitter than ever.
Anthony McGrath, who scored centuries home and away against Durham last season, returns to the Yorkshire team after his knee injury. But rather than leave out Joe Root following his debut in the win at Worcester, Yorkshire have dropped the luckless Joe Sayers, who failed to make an impact on his return from his debilitating illness.
They could hardly leave out Gerard Brophy following his 177 not out at Worcester. He could not have been certain of a place pre-season, once it had been decided that Jonny Bairstow would keep wicket, but he has certainly cemented it now.
The derby match will provide an interesting opportunity to compare leg-spinners Adil Rashid and Scott Borthwick. After spending the winter with the ECB Academy it was reported that the Durham player had surpassed his rival in some selectorial eyes, but Rashid took 11 wickets at Worcester, while Durham were slow to introduce Borthwick on the final day at the Rose Bowl.
Given that they had 489 runs to play with when they declared with 20 overs to bowl on the third evening, it was a surprise that he didn’t come on until the penultimate over before lunch.