Mitchell Starc is well-placed to complete a miraculous recovery and play in the second Ashes Test at Lord’s when Australia attempt to square the series.
There were fears Starc’s series may be over after he was clearly restricted and needed pain-killing injections to get through the first Test defeat in Cardiff after incurring an ankle injury on day one.
However, the Australian camp is increasingly confident Starc will back up at the home of cricket, despite having only four days between matches.
He is to bowl in the nets, hoping to prove his fitness for the second Test starting on Thursday.
“He’s walking around okay, so he’s going to bowl,” said coach Darren Lehmann.
“We want to take a fully fit side in so he’s going to have to prove his fitness, we certainly don’t want him breaking down on day one.
“But all signs are pretty good.”
Lehmann admitted he’d almost conceded Starc had no hope for Lord’s following the 169-run loss in Cardiff where he bowled 40.1 overs and took seven wickets for the match.
“I thought – well he won’t play for a while,” he said.
Newly-retired paceman Ryan Harris was full of praise for the way Starc was able to mentally dismiss the niggle.
“Probably the most important thing was he improved,” Harris said.
“It sort of showed him you can play to an extent with obviously sharp pain.
“The way I used to look at it is it’s either going to break or get better – it got better for him.”
Starc cranked up his pace in England’s second dig, reaching over 145 km/h.
“That’s bloody hard to do,” Harris said.
“When you’re running in you might be focused 70 per cent on the pain and 30 per cent on where the ball is going.
“For him to get through that and maintain that pace was a massive effort. It was great to see him get through it.”
Legendary paceman Glenn McGrath, who also suffered from bone spurs on his ankle, heaped praise on Starc.
“When you’ve got seven times your body weight going through your front foot and you’ve got issues with it – it’s not fun,” McGrath said.
“He seemed to bowl a little bit better in the second innings, a little bit more consistent. A bit quicker.”
If Starc is unable to bowl in the nets on Tuesday or Wednesday, Peter Siddle will take his place in the XI.
Harris suggested Siddle would have a “massive influence” on the second Test if selected, but backed incumbent pacemen Starc, Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood to fire at Lord’s.
“We can’t knock off the guys that are in there now. One and a half bad sessions of cricket I don’t think warrants dropping,” Harris said.