DEAN HEADLEY, the Kent fast bowler, was yesterday ruled out of the first Cornhill Test against Australia at Edgbaston.
Headley, 27, has been ordered to rest for a few days after dropping out of the championship match against Nottinghamshire with a back injury.
Headley has seen a specialist and was told he has a ligament problem, not a stress fracture as was feared. But that will still be enough to dash his hopes of making the England squad on Sunday.
He played in only one of the Texaco Trophy one-day internationals and struggled through Kent's Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-final win over Warwickshire, taking none for 42 in seven overs.
Yet had he been fit, Headley was a near certainty to face the Australians in the first Test, which starts next Thursday, having been the leading wicket-taker on the England A tour of Australia in the winter.
Sussex will give first-class debuts to three players when they play Oxford University in a three-day match starting in The Parks today.
All-rounder Chris Batt, off-spinner Justin Bates and batsman James Pyemont are all included, while fast bowler James Kirtley makes his first-team comeback after six weeks out with a side strain.
Bates and Pyemont have both played Sunday League cricket, but Batt, a member of Reading Cricket Club, is a newcomer to the county.
Northamptonshire have granted opening batsman Alan Fordham a benefit year in 1998.