Timing appears to be in the Sydney Sixers' favour as the Big Bash reaches the closing stages. After having hit form to secure second spot - and two chances to make the final - along with the return of their Australia players, there is now positive news over the fitness of Sean Abbott, who is set to be available for the Qualifier against the Melbourne Stars on Friday.
It is a opportune comeback for Abbott, which should help the Sixers cover for the loss of Tom Curran, their leading wicket-taker in the league stage. Curran has now left for England duty in South Africa having claimed 22 wickets and scored 133 runs to further enhance his standing at the club.
Curran signed off with 3 for 27 against the Melbourne Renegades to highlight the hole that will need to be filled in the attack as the Sixers aim to secure their first BBL title since the inaugural competition in 2011-12.
Abbott has been sidelined since the end of December, when he suffered a side strain against the Sydney Thunder which also ruled him out of Australia's one-day tour of India. Having increased his workload in training over the last few days, he is now ready to return providing he comes through a final workout when the squad arrives in Melbourne on Thursday.
He had taken 11 wickets in five games prior to his injury and his all-round game means he will also help fill the batting part of Curran's role, which proved vital at times during the season - not least the game against the Thunder where he earned the Super Over which he then went on to bowl.
"Obviously Tommy took my Super Over that I really wanted to bowl against the Thunder," Abbott joked. "We both bowl at pretty similar times in the game. One or two in the Powerplay, not as many through the middle, then at the death. I can get one spot up the order with the bat, now that he's left. [We are] pretty similar players with the ball but we each have our own strengths that separate us form each other."
Abbott's T20 batting is a level below where Curran has been able to take his game over the last two years - scoring 318 runs at a strike rate of 146.54 in the last two BBL campaigns - but he has been eager to learn off the England allrounder.
"I've been working on that. Been trying to keep it pretty simple, but spending quite a lot of time with Tommy over the last two seasons has been great," he said. "It's sort of been pushing me along to strive for better performances with the bat, and really wanting that contest and chance with the bat. Pretty fortunate I've been able to spend the last two seasons with a player like Tommy."
Side strains can be particularly troublesome for a pace bowler and Abbott conceded he may not be quite back to bowling at full tilt against the Stars but is confident he will be able to deliver in a high-pressure game, albeit one that comes with a second chance for whoever loses in the Challenger final next Thursday.
"I feel like I've got enough games under my belt now and enough self-awareness to cope with whatever comes my way on Friday night in terms of getting back from a side strain injury and dealing with that," he said. "My body might hold me back from bowling 100%, like I might not be able to get the ball down there as quick but today went really well in the nets. I'm assuming tomorrow will go really well in the nets as well. I don't see why Friday will be any different from when I started the tournament."