Brett Lee's hopes of making an international comeback have been dashed by a muscle strain in his right forearm that will force him out of the ICC World Twenty20. Lee suffered the problem during Australia's one-run warm-up loss to Zimbabwe and the team has requested a replacement player, likely to be either Doug Bollinger or Ryan Harris.

The injury is a major blow for Lee, who has not played for his country since October and was making his return from elbow surgery. Lee felt pain after taking 1 for 13 in four overs and later had MRI scans, and a team spokesman said the strain was unrelated to his elbow trouble.

"It's a muscle strain," the team spokesman told AAP. "We have gone to the ICC Technical Committee to ask for a replacement player."

The latest problem will raise further questions over the future of Lee, 33, who retired from Tests in February but wanted to remain a key Twenty20 and one-day player. A broken thumb curtailed his IPL season and although he retained his Cricket Australia contract, his ongoing injury worries must be a concern for the team management.

Australia play their second warm-up game against the Windward Islands on Thursday before their opening match of the tournament proper against Pakistan on Sunday. Bollinger and Harris are the front-runners to replace Lee, having both had strong summers in the shorter formats.