Lee doubtful for third Test

Australia will assess fast bowler Brett Lee's fitness over the coming days amid doubt he will be available for the third Test.

Lee, 32, has missed the first two Tests of the npower series, which the Australians trail 1-0, and has yet to bowl a ball since being diagnosed with his side injury.

The Australians will make a judgment on whether they can thrust him into the tour match against Northamptonshire, starting on Friday, in the next 48 hours.

Their attack at Lord's lacked a pace spearhead but they are erring on the side of caution ahead of next week's Edgbaston Test.

"We will see how we go," said coach Tim Nielsen. "We are progressing him.

"The positive thing is that in a tour game we do have the flexibility on how much we can bowl him or how much we don't bowl him.

"He hasn't bowled yet, so we just have to sit with the medical staff over the next few days and chat: about how much we need to get into him and whether it is going to progress him to the stage where he could play in the third Test.

"My feeling is, if it is not going to mean he is available to play in the third Test match, we are going to have to be really careful about rushing him back."

Lee has not played for Australia at the pinnacle form of the game since the Boxing Day Test defeat to South Africa over the winter.

He displayed his credentials for a return with six first-innings wickets against England Lions last month but suffered discomfort in his ribs as a by-product.

Without playing in a competitive environment beforehand it is now hard to see how Australia could take a fitness gamble on the 76-Test veteran next week.

Nielsen confirmed: "The injury that he has is a bowling-specific injury and history shows if you have those injuries again it tends to be six, eight, 10 weeks before they come right, if you actually re-tear the side.

"Two, three, four overs in the nets is probably not enough to prove that he is right to go. If he had to bowl say 11 overs in a row, like Andrew Flintoff did yesterday, to win a Test match for us, we would want to be comfortable that he is strong and fit enough and able to do it."

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