England are confident they know what their team will be for the first Test, with fast bowler Chris Tremlett expected to slot into the attack and wicketkeeper Matt Prior tipped to be passed fit.
Good news on the form of Tremlett and the health of Prior has provided some important clarity for the tourists after a disrupted Ashes preparation, which has been hindered by rain and injury concerns.
Prior was by far the most significant worry after straining his calf during the tour match in Hobart, but there’s renewed optimism the veteran gloveman will be fit to start on Thursday in Brisbane.
England’s batting line-up is settled, but with Tim Bresnan not expected back until the second Test, the tourists have been unsure who their third seamer at the Gabba will be.
Australian-born bowling coach David Saker admits Tremlett and other candidates Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin have failed to stand out in performances so far on tour.
Saker described Finn, who took eight wickets but leaked runs in the tour match in Sydney, as a “work in progress”, but said Tremlett had made major inroads in the nets after being rested at the SCG.
England are after a bowler who can mix control with wicket-taking ability, something Tremlett did last time he was in Australia when he took 17 wickets at 23 in 2010/11.
“I think we’re pretty clear in our minds where we’re going to go. I’m not going to announce who’s going to play but we’re confident where we are,” Saker said.
“(Bowlers haven’t gone as well as we’d like) But I know that the guys we’ve got in this group are good enough and we’re prepared and we’re ready for this challenge.
“In the last week I’ve seen a big change for Chris Tremlett, so that was a real pleasing thing for us.
“We did have two or three really good sessions in Sydney. We had a good chat about some certain things.
“The nets were fantastic batting surfaces and he came out of that really well and I think he gained a lot of confidence in where he was.”
Bresnan played a key role in the last Ashes series in the UK, keeping runs to a premium and taking key wickets.
Saker said Bresnan would play a tour match in Alice Springs after the first Test and was on track to return in Adelaide from stress fractures.
“He’s bowling at 100 per cent in the nets now so we’ve just got to get some overs into him,” he said.
Prior has been gradually building up his workloads and completed a batting session at the SCG on Saturday.
He was down in the dumps earlier last week, but arrived in Brisbane with a spring in his step, tweeting his excitement ahead of the Ashes opener.
Saker said Prior is in the hands of the medical team, but his verdict is the three-time Ashes winner is ready to go.
“He’s making good progress up to now. Obviously we’d love him on the park on Thursday,” he said.
“He’s got a few days to get that right. I’m confident he’ll be right but that’s for the medical department.”