Key players for England showing signs of form and improved health.
Paceman Chris Tremlett and injured wicketkeeper Matt Prior were given the thumbs up by England on Sunday, suggesting both are likely to play in the first Ashes Test against Australia starting Thursday.
England bowling coach David Saker said Tremlett, bidding for the third seamer’s spot, was doing well bowling in the nets after being rested for the tourists’ seven-wicket win over the Cricket Australia Invitational XI in Sydney.
Prior has been a concern since straining his calf during the tour match against Australia A in Hobart. But Saker said he was confident the first-choice gloveman will be fit to start on Thursday in Brisbane, with Jonny Bairstow on standby.
Australian-born Saker admits Tremlett and other candidates Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin have failed to press their Test case 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 Sydney Cricket Ground.
England want 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 23.35 in the 2010/11 series.
“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 told reporters.
“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.”
Prior has been gradually building up his workloads and completed a batting session in the nets at the SCG on Saturday.
Saker said Prior was in the hands of the medical team, but his verdict was that the three-time Ashes winner was 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.”
Saker said paceman Tim Bresnan would play a tour match in Alice Springs after the first Test and was on track to return in the second Adelaide Test following stress fractures.
“He’s bowling at 100 percent in the nets now so we’ve just got to get some overs into him,” he said.
Bresnan played a key role in the last Ashes series in Britain, taking 10 wickets at 29.60 and keeping the runs down.