The prospects of an Ashes Test recall for Mitchell Johnson increased on Monday when the veteran paceman was rested from a domestic Sheffield Shield match for his state team.
The 32-year-old left-armer hasn't played a Test match since March, but has been in impressive form in the limited-overs arena for Australia and could form an experienced pace attack with Ryan Harris and Peter Siddle for the series opener against England in Brisbane starting November 21. Johnson has taken 205 wickets in 51 Tests, and has had some success with the bat with a high of 123 not out and an unbeaten 96 against South Africa among his seven Test half centuries.
Harris and Siddle have also been rested from their provincial teams this week and are expected to be included in the Test lineup when it is announced on Tuesday.
Australia's bowling stocks have been ravaged by injuries to young pacemen Mitchell Starc, James Pattinson and Pat Cummins, and doubts over allrounder Shane Watson's ability to bowl in the first Test because of a hamstring strain.
Johnson has had mixed success in his nine Tests against England, but his sheer pace has caused the English trouble in Australia before.
Australia will be relying on improved line and length from Johnson, together with pace up around 155 kph (96 mph), to bother the English batsmen.
In the last Ashes series on Australian soil, Johnson was dropped after conceding 170 runs without taking a wicket in the first Test in Brisbane but responded with a man-of-the-match performance when he was recalled for the third Test in Perth.
His nine wickets in Perth helped Australia to its only win in a series otherwise dominated by England.
Harris, who took 24 wickets in Australia's 3-0 defeat in the last Ashes series in England earlier this year, said Johnson was ready to go after some strong performances in Australia's ODI series in India last month. Johnson was overlooked for the last Ashes tour following a poor series in England in 2009 and will be desperate to re-establish himself in the Test lineup.
"I have been watching him bowl over in India and it is a bit scary, to be honest," Harris said Monday. "He had them jumping over there. He is bowling fast.
"He had a tough time of it 12 months ago ... he has been out of the Test team for such a long time. I've spoken to him and I know he wants to be back in the team and he has done everything he can."