Ryan Harris set for BBL return
The fast bowler Ryan Harris has been cleared to play for the Brisbane Heat in Tuesday's Twenty20 Big Bash League match against the Melbourne Stars as he aims to prove his fitness for the Boxing Day Test. Harris, 32, has spent the past five weeks recovering from a hip injury that ruled him out of the second Test of Australia's tour of South Africa.
The uncertainty over how his body would handle five days of cricket is likely to discourage Australia's selectors from risking Harris in the Melbourne Test against India. However, Harris wants to give himself every chance of playing, having missed Australia's past three Tests, which gave the young fast men James Pattinson and Pat Cummins an opportunity to shine.
Cummins has been ruled out of the summer due to a heel injury, and Pattinson and Peter Siddle are expected to share the new ball against India. The third seamer's position is less clear after the left-armer Mitchell Starc struggled to grab his chances during the New Zealand series, and while Harris is a proven Test performer, his body is notoriously fragile.
He has been named to play for the Heat in Tuesday's match at the Gabba, after completing a pair of club T20 matches in Brisbane's grade competition at the weekend. Harris took 1 for 22 and 1 for 17 in the two outings, as well as snapping up a sharp catch and effecting a run-out from the infield, but it would be a major gamble for Australia to choose him for a Test with such little preparation.
Cricket Australia's team performance manager, Pat Howard, said earlier this month that rushing Harris back would not be in the long-term interests of the side. Before he suffered his hip injury during the Cape Town Test, Harris battled a hamstring strain that kept him out of the third Test against Sri Lanka, and he also has to manage a degenerative right knee.
Last summer, he was struck down by an ankle injury that required surgery and kept him from completing the Ashes series. Since his debut early last year, Harris has played only eight of a possible 18 Tests, but his record of 35 wickets at an average of 21.37 shows that when fit he is a key part of Australia's side.
With no Sheffield Shield cricket scheduled until after the end of the Test series against India, Harris will need to make his case for a recall via the Big Bash League and club cricket.