Australia fast bowler Mitchell Starc is confident he will be ready for the first Test against South Africa in Perth in November after declaring himself fit for a Sheffield Shield appearance next week.
Starc had surgery five weeks ago after a horror incident in which he suffered a deep laceration to his left shin when he slid into the metal plate at the base of a set of stumps during a training drill in Sydney.
He was already due to be rested from Australia's ODI tour of South Africa and did not play at all during the Matador Cup, but is expected to take the field for New South Wales in their first match of the Sheffield Shield season against Queensland at the Gabba starting on Tuesday.
"I'm hopefully on that plane on Monday to Brisbane and [will] get some good bowling in and get back playing and ready to go for the first Test," Starc told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
Although he has not bowled since the end of Australia's tour of Sri Lanka in September, Starc expects to be unrestricted in his output in the Shield match. The round of Shield games will be the only chance for Australia's selectors to assess their players before naming the squad for the first Test.
Shaun Marsh appears an unlikely starter for the WACA Test after suffering a hamstring injury, which should open the door for Joe Burns' return to the side after being dropped in Sri Lanka. Australia must also decide on the make-up of their attack, with the key question being who comes in as the third fast man alongside Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
Jackson Bird is effectively the incumbent, having taken seven wickets during Australia's win in Christchurch in February, before the selectors reverted to a twin-spin attack in Sri Lanka. However, Peter Siddle could also come under consideration having made his return from injury during the Matador Cup.
But assuming Starc is fit, his inclusion is likely to be the key for Australia, after he snared a remarkable 24 wickets in the three-Test series in Sri Lanka. Before his injury, Australia's selectors had already decided Starc needed some time at home to freshen up ahead of the Test summer, although several of his team-mates played in the recent ODI series in South Africa.
"The boys have been on the road for a very long time, there's a lot of time away from home," Starc said. "I think they've had two weeks, maybe three weeks tops between May through to now. I think just being back home might relax everyone a little bit."