Yorkshire left stumped after Harris discarded

YORKSHIRE'S plans for the new season were plunged into confusion last night when their first-choice overseas signing Ryan Harris was dramatically omitted from Australia's Twenty20 World Cup squad – raising the possibility he could play for the county after all.

Harris's exclusion came as a major shock to officials at Headingley Carnegie, who had been all set to sign West Indies pace bowler Tino Best as his replacement.

Yorkshire were last night trying urgently to clarify Harris's position and pin down whether Cricket Australia will allow him to play county cricket as initially planned.

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The 30-year-old pace bowler was left out of Australia's 15-man party for the Caribbean tournament in favour of Brett Lee, who is set to return to international duty following elbow surgery.

Commenting on Harris's exclusion, which Australia's chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch described as "extremely unlucky", Yorkshire's director of professional cricket Martyn Moxon admitted: "It's come as a big surprise. We had no indication this was going to happen and we're trying to find out what consequences it has with regards to Ryan's availability for us.

"Whether he will be able to come to Yorkshire as initially planned, I just don't know.

"Cricket Australia may want him to rest up ahead of a busy international schedule with the tour to England coming up later in the summer, or they may let him play for us after all."

Moxon, who had virtually written off Harris as a non-starter after some outstanding performances for Australia suddenly ignited his international career, had been hoping to complete the signing of Best during the next few days.

Best impressed during the club's pre-season tour of his native Barbados after requesting to join the players for net practice.

"Tino e-mailed and asked whether he could join us on the tour and bowl in the nets," revealed Moxon.

"He impressed in practice and then when we found out that Daryl Tuffey (Yorkshire's original replacement for Ryan Harris) had broken his hand playing for New Zealand, we decided to have a look at Tino in our friendly against Lancashire.

"Tino bowled 14 overs and took 1-12 and his lines and lengths were extremely good.

"He bowled with great control and with great pace, and you can't ask for anything more."

Should the Harris deal fall to materialise, Yorkshire would hope to have Best on board in time for their opening County Championship game against Warwickshire at Edgbaston a week on Friday.

The 28-year-old, who has played 14 Tests and 12 one-day internationals, is poised to come to England pending clearance from the West Indies Cricket Board and the granting of a work permit.

"We're on a tight timeline with our opening County Championship game being just over a week away but we're hopeful of being able to tie up a deal with Tino if Ryan can't come," added Moxon.

"The plan would be to get Tino on board for the first month and then reassess things.

"It may be that someone else comes up on the market, or it may be that Tino does a really good job and stays here longer. He's certainly got the talent to make an impression."

Best has fallen out of favour at international level and is desperate to return to the West Indies' fold.

"He wants to prove a point and get back in their squad, so there's no doubt he'd have plenty of incentive to do well in England," added Moxon.

"He's never played county cricket before and it would be a great learning curve.

"But this is a really frustrating time for us because we simply don't know who's going to be available.

"I'm not just talking about the overseas situation but also our existing players, with the likes of Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad possibly being away on international duty."

Bresnan and Shahzad could today be named in England's 15-man squad for the Twenty20 World Cup following some impressive displays during the winter months. Their inclusion in an injury-hit England party would rule them out of Yorkshire's games for the duration of a tournament that runs from April 30 to May 16.

Despite the ongoing uncertainty surrounding player availability, Moxon believes Yorkshire are shaping up well.

"We had a really good tour of Barbados and although our back-up seam bowling can still be better, I'm pleased with how we're progressing," he said.

"If we lose senior players to international commitments that's clearly going to challenge us, so the performances of the younger players will be very important."