STEVE HARMISON last night vowed to shake off his back injury and play a leading role in England's Test series with Sri Lanka.

The Durham paceman is determined to recover before the second Test on December 10, even though he was yesterday ruled out until the New Year.

Harmison, 25, admitted he was "devastated" when he discovered he would be unable to link up with the the England Test squad after failing two fitness tests.

But he said: "I'm still hoping I can be fit in two-and-a-half weeks.

"I thought I was in a decent position, fitness wise, last Wednesday but when I started bowling my lower back just seized up and I doubled over.

"I couldn't move on Thursday morning and on Friday I was devastated when I realised I wouldn't be going to Sri Lanka.

"I've been spending two or three days a week at the National Cricket Academy in Loughborough.

"But this time I will go there a bit longer - perhaps stay an extra night - and try to get through it so I'm ready if anyone gets injured."

Harmison's back problem first surfaced in the wake of England's first Test win over Bangladesh, when he took nine wickets and was named man of the match.

He missed the second-Test victory at Chittagong but was confident the injury would not preclude him from returning to the team in Sri Lanka.

However, he broke down again on Monday, meaning he will miss the first Test against Sri Lanka at Galle.

The second Test at Kandy, which begins on December 10, is now Harmison's target as he looks to extend his impressive recent international form.

He said: "To say I'm frustrated is an understatement. The way everything has gone in the last 12 months suggested everything was getting better and better.

"I felt I was going forward, things were all going the right way, and then I took a kick in the teeth on that Bangladesh trip.

"But injury is a part of sport and you have to get on with things.

"Andrew Flintoff had a similar thing when he had a really good end to the series against South Africa and then had to pull out of Bangladesh.

"If he'd played there and aggravated his groin injury, that would have been a lot worse for both him and the team."

Peter Gregory, the ECB's chief medical officer, said: "Steve bowled at the National Academy a week ago and he was sore for a few days afterwards.

"Then he returned for a fitness test on Monday in front of the selectors, England's Test squad physiotherapist Kirk Russell and myself, and when bowling his second spell in the nets it was clear that he could not continue."

Harmison has been replaced by Somerset's Richard Johnson, who starred in the second-Test victory in Bangladesh.

Johnson cancelled his honeymoon to take his chance in Chittagong.

He was off to Mauritius with wife Nikki but the couple will now go to the Maldives in January.

''If my chance comes along against Sri Lanka hopefully I will take it,'' he said.

Johnson has taken five-wicket hauls in each of his two Test appearances, against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at the Riverside in June.

He said: "You can only play what you get put up against and I've taken my opportunities when I've played.

"If I hadn't taken any wickets against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, everyone would be wondering whether I was good enough.

As England came to terms with Harmison's setback, they were rocked by the loss of James Anderson for tomorrow's second one-day international with Sri Lanka with a twisted ankle.

Anderson turned his right ankle playing squash after a thunder shower washed out another day's practice and he was due to have an x-ray on the injury this morning.