x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Aussies seek a favour

Cricket Australia has asked England for permission to use an extra man in Ashes warm-up matches to help solve their selection issues.

Cricket Australia has asked England for permission to use an extra man in Ashes warm-up matches to help solve their selection issues. English county sides Middlesex and Gloucestershire have already been criticised by the English media for allowing Phillip Hughes, the hugely exciting opening batsman, and Stuart Clarke, the seamer, the chance to acclimatise themselves to English conditions.

But now Cricket Australia official Michael Brown yesterday confirmed a request had gone to the England and Wales Cricket Board for permission to use 12 players in the tour matches against Sussex and Worcester. England were allowed to do the same ahead of the 2006-2007 series in Australia, which they lost 5-0. Brett Lee will need to prove his fitness in the warm-up games and Australia captain Ricky Ponting said the returning fast bowler was progressing well following ankle surgery.

"Lee is still a bit of an unknown," Ponting said. "I'm hearing a lot of good things out of South Africa about how he bowled in the Indian Premier League but we haven't seen him up close yet. "The first two games we play leading into the first Test will tell us a pretty good story about where we see all of those five fast bowlers. "That will be our best chance to look at the likelihood of some of those guys playing the first test match."

With Lee and Clarke returning from injury, Mitchell Johnson in devastating form against South Africa and Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle capable of extracting prodigious sideways movement, Ponting looks spoilt for choice in the fast-bowling department. "I couldn't be happier with the squad of fast bowlers we've got together in this group," he said. * With agencies