Simon Katich, the injured Australia opener, has revealed he is set to make a surprise return in time for the fifth Ashes Test in Sydney, increasing the pressure on Phillip Hughes to find form in the Boxing Day meeting in Melbourne.
Katich damaged his Achilles tendon during the second Test defeat to England in Adelaide and was initially expected to miss the rest of the series.
But the veteran left-hander has revealed that his comeback plans are ahead of schedule and he may be fit for the Sydney Test, starting on January 3.
Hughes replaced Katich for the third Test in Perth, but failed twice as Australia pulled off a series-saving win over England.
Knowing Katich is looking over his shoulder will place further heat on the out-of-form Hughes in the biggest Test of the summer.
"I'm doing all the rehab and pulling up well from the strength work so the physio's pretty happy with where I'm at and actually thinks I'm ahead of schedule," Katich said.
"Normally it takes a couple of months to settle down but it's settling down pretty quickly.
"I've been having treatment on it every day for the last few weeks and it's all going really well."
Asked if he'd be fit in time for Sydney, Katich replied: "I'm a long shot but you never know.
"You can't really put a date on it because with tendon injuries you never know until you fully test them, but if I test it next week and pull up well then who knows.
"I am doing everything I can to get it right so we'll wait and see.
"I will keep upping the ante with the strength work and we might consider testing it with a run next week to see how it pulls up. But I haven't discussed it [a return] with the selectors and that would be for them to decide, not me."
Meanwhile, Katich believes Hughes can bounce back in the Boxing Day Test despite his struggles at the Waca. "It's a tough job over there in Perth," Katich said. "The wicket had some life with the new ball and it was tough for the openers. I'm sure Phil will be fine in Melbourne."