James Anderson appears to be on track for a return from injury in his home Test at Old Trafford after England made him available for Lancashire’s match against Durham, starting on Saturday.
Anderson is set to play only the first two days of the Specsavers County Championship match at Southport, in which Ben Stokes will be in opposition.
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker is controversially absent from the squad to face Pakistan in the ongoing first Investec Test at Lord’s, after the selectors chose the cautious route with his well-being as he recovers from a stress fracture of the shoulder blade.
Both Anderson and England all-rounder Stokes were fit enough - the latter is on his way back after knee surgery - to bowl in the Lord’s nets before the start of the four-match series.
Stokes has played a handful of matches as a specialist batsman for Durham, and will be in action both in Friday night’s Twenty20 fixture at home to Northamptonshire and then away to Lancashire.
Anderson’s programme, meanwhile, is an obvious indication that England are ready to name him in their squad for the second Test, allowing him match and recovery time before next Friday.
Stokes will be joined by England fast bowler Mark Wood against Northamptonshire as the latter continues his comeback after two bouts of ankle surgery.
Wood, who last played for his country against Pakistan in Dubai last October, is also due to join the Lions squad to take on Sri Lanka and Pakistan’s A teams next week.