Lee upbeat over fitness
Australia fast bowler Brett Lee has warned England he is ready to return in this week's fourth npower Ashes Test at Headingley Carnegie.
Lee missed the first three matches of the series with a side strain but is determined to prove his fitness for the start of the fourth on Friday.
The 32-year-old has overcome a setback suffered prior to the third Test at Edgbaston last week and played a full part in a net session this morning.
When asked if he was fit, Lee said: "Yes, 100%. I do believe I have done the work; I've been bowling eight days straight.
"Most days I've bowled back to back, morning and afternoon sessions.
"Today I bowled practically the whole session and my pace felt really good. I'm 100% ready to go."
Batsman Michael Clarke sat out today's session due to an abdominal problem but the Australians have played down the seriousness of his injury and he should be in contention.
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin is also expected to return after breaking a finger in the warm-up on the first day at Edgbaston.
Lee's only concern is a lack of match practice having not played since a tour match against England Lions prior to the first Test.
But he added: "Hopefully I've done everything I can to prove I'm ready to go. I'm confident if I was called upon to play I would be able to get through.
"If it was a different injury, you might think differently. But the way I've felt, I've done the preparation and it's been a minor setback.
"Hopefully I've passed that, bowling eight days straight, and can prove that I can stand up and am ready to go."
Whether or not Lee does feature will remain a subject of conjecture with team-mate Shane Watson admitting his lack of action could count against him.
“He bowled at full pace which is not the nicest thing to face in the nets, but it’s good for him,” Watson said.
“He’s probably a game away - he needs that under his belt to be under calculation for selection - but it’s good to see him charging along and when he has that really good pace you know he’s going to be at his best.
"I know from my experience coming back from an injury you normally need at least one game to be able to have a big crack out.
"I think at the moment there's probably less chance of him being picked but I am not a selector."
All-rounder Watson was brought into the Australia side in the third Test as a replacement opener for out-of-form Phillip Hughes.
He impressed with a half-century in each innings and is hoping to pick up where he left off as Australia look to claw back a 1-0 deficit.
Watson said: "I loved opening and really enjoyed the challenge of facing the England bowlers with a brand new ball.
"I'd love to keep opening, but keep working on my bowling.
"My bowling is a bit of a work in progress at the moment from where I've been with my back injury and lay-off, but I'm loving the challenge I've got."
Watson admitted the pressure is building on Australia with just two Tests remaining.
Australia need only draw the series to retain the Ashes but England had the better of a rain-affected draw in Birmingham last week.
Watson said: "As a group I think we’re definitely a bit nervous. We know we had to bat really well to get out of trouble.
“It’s definitely a big confidence boost to know that we’re able to do that moving into these next two Test matches because we need to win at least one of them to make sure we retain the Ashes.”
With the series hotting up, there was a noticeable increase in tension out in the middle at Edgbaston.
Watson enjoyed the heat of the battle and is looking forward to more of the same in Leeds.
“It’s getting closer to the end and we need to win," Watson said. "So the intensity is really starting to rise up.
"I really enjoyed it, it’s great cricket. It’s great to have some really competitive banter out there.
"Everyone’s going hammer and tongs to give yourself the best chance of winning. I love it.”
Watson even admits he relishing facing England's talismanic all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, whose fitness remains a concern.
“Obviously we expect him to play because that’s what he has done over the last three Test matches and he’s performed really well," he said.
“He’s awesome and to face ‘Freddie’ fully charged up is one of the best challenges I’ve had in my career.”