STEVE Harmison suffered his second freak injury of the season yesterday, ruling him out of much-needed match practice against Sri Lanka A.

An ankle injury picked up in a pre-match kick-about will be re-assessed today, but it could mean that another season lies in ruins after he played only half of Durham's championship matches last year.

He began this season by being struck on the arm at the non-striker's end by a drive from Phil Mustard in the opening game at the Rose Bowl. Harmison struggled to bowl three overs in the match then missed the next four.

A short game of football is the norm for all counties as part of their warm-up routine and Harmison is not the first casualty.

He fell awkwardly after putting his foot on the ball ahead of the four-day match against the tourists at Chester-le-Street.

Harmison was to have played in an effort to rediscover some accuracy, having bowled 11 wides in his last two appearances. His figures of none for 65 in ten overs at Taunton last week had left his place in the team in jeopardy.

Even if he recovers fairly quickly, it will be very difficult now for Durham to select him during their remaining five championship games, starting with the visit of Nottinghamshire on Tuesday.

Harmison needs to bowl regularly, but has not had the opportunity since losing his England place because of a series of injuries.

He missed the first three championship games last season, another one in mid-season, then the final four.

After playing his part in this season's wins at Worcester and Edgbaston, and declaring himself happy with a shortened run-up, he was absent from the home win against Lancashire and was not selected during the Friends Life t20 series.

He had clearly lost form on his return to action and cut a forlorn figure as he limped off yesterday.

Durham's bowling coach, Alan Walker, said: "Steve and Liam Plunkett both needed to bowl in this match. We have been here before with them and they both need to bowl some overs and get in a rhythm.

"Steve hasn't been able to do that and Liam bowled slightly better as he went on. He has a couple of technical issues, but it's a fine line between working on those and just letting him run in and bowl.

"He has to be tough mentally. We don't just want a quick fix - he has to hang in there. Things weren't going as he wanted, but he never threw the towel in and he stuck to what we are working on. He got a wicket with a good ball in the end."