Australia v South Africa 2012-13 September 24, 2012

Harris expected to miss South Africa Tests

The fast bowler Ryan Harris has all but ruled himself out of Australia's Test series against South Africa this summer as he continues his recovery from shoulder surgery. Harris had an operation two months ago and he believes it is "pretty unrealistic" for him to return for the South African series, which starts at the Gabba on November 9, and is instead hoping to be available for the Test series against Sri Lanka, beginning in Hobart on December 14.

Harris played two of the three Tests during Australia's tour of the Caribbean in April and was Man of the Match in Barbados for his five wickets and unbeaten half-century. Since he made his Test debut in early 2010 only Pat Cummins and James Pattinson, who have played far fewer matches, have had better Test bowling averages for Australia than Harris, who has collected 47 wickets at 23.63 in 12 appearances.

However, his workload has taken a physical toll and the Australian team management is reluctant to overuse Harris, who turns 33 next month. The only time Harris has played all the Tests in a series was during his debut series in New Zealand, and he knows that it does not make sense to take any risks in an attempt to rush himself back into contention for the South Africa matches.

"I would love to be able to be back against South Africa but at this stage it is pretty unrealistic. It is one of those things I can't control," Harris told News Limited newspapers. "I will get back for Queensland and let the rest take care of itself before any Australian stuff. In theory I will be up and going in six weeks but it is an injury we will not rush. The pain is going, I just have to build confidence now but believe I can get back well."

Although the absence of Harris is a blow for Australia, the depth in their fast-bowling stocks should allow the attack to remain strong against South Africa. If Pattinson and Cummins remain fit they will be in contention for the Gabba Test having both impressed in their initial Tests last summer, while Ben Hilfenhaus and Peter Siddle will shoulder much of the workload. The left-armer Mitchell Starc is another candidate.

The Australians will be battling for the No.1 spot on the ICC's Test rankings when they take on South Africa, having not lost a Test series since Michael Clarke took over as captain. South Africa are on top of the rankings table and have not been defeated in a series since Australia beat them 2-1 in early 2009, but in their past 20 Tests South Africa have not won any two consecutive matches.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here