Marcus Stoinis is ready to bowl again for the Melbourne Stars having not delivered a ball in the BBL so far this season coming off a side strain.
Stoinis injured his side while bowling for Australia in the first ODI against India on November 27.
He missed the rest of the ODI series and played just one game in the following T20I series as a specialist batsman while still injured, as Australia were severely undermanned due to the loss of both Aaron Finch and David Warner.
Stoinis has played every game of the BBL so far but only as a batsman due to his side issue, but he is set to be available to bowl if called upon by captain Glenn Maxwell when the Stars host the Adelaide Strikers at the MCG on Friday night.
"My body is good," Stoinis said. "I'm hopeful to be bowling this game. I'm actually fit. I just haven't been able to bowl at training. We've been travelling quite a lot and it's sometimes hard to get the facilities to bowl. Hopefully, it's this game, in fact, it will be."
Stoinis had been given the all-clear to bowl 10 days ago but the strict nature of the BBL hubs has made it difficult for him to gain access to nets in order to get his bowling loads up.
The BBL teams and players have not had the freedom to use practice nets and facilities like they would in a normal season due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Stoinis had to get clearance to book a net for bowling session on the Gold Coast the day after the Stars' loss to the Heat on January 7. The team then had to travel to Adelaide and play on January 11.
The inability to get several solid bowling sessions in over that period has meant he could not return to bowl in a game until now.
"I have bowled a couple times but that's what holding me back," Stoinis said. "I've been fit for a week or 10 days but actually having the chance to bowl in the nets hasn't been an option at the moment. We've had that the last couple of days. I'll have a bowl today, and then everything going well I'm pretty sure I'll play as a bowler next game."
Stoinis also suffered side strains during the 2019 World Cup but he is confident the recurrence is nothing more than coincidental.
"It's different parts of the side," Stoinis said. "I've done both [sides] now. It's quite a typical bowling injury, I guess."
Perth Scorchers allrounder Mitchell Marsh also suffered a side strain during the Scorchers win over Hobart Hurricanes on Tuesday and is now unable to bowl for the remainder of the tournament.
The Stars are excited to return to Melbourne having played their first nine games of the BBL season on the road.
No one is more thrilled about the Stars' return to the MCG than Pakistan quick Haris Rauf after he lit up the 'G with a spectacular hat-trick in the Stars' win over the Sydney Thunder win over Sydney Thunder last season.
"I'm so excited to play at the MCG," Rauf said. "There's good memories at the MCG, the best game in my life [was when I took] the hat-trick. I [will] remember that, always."
Rauf has had a tough start on his return to the BBL this season after arriving from New Zealand where he toured with the Pakistan side.
But he is grateful for the opportunity to come back to BBL, which played such a big part in his propulsion to the international stage.
"I'm [still] learning," Rauf said. "Last year was a good experience in the Big Bash League. After the Big Bash , I had success playing for [my] country."
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne