SYDNEY (Reuters) - England captain Alastair Cook is cautiously optimistic that all-rounder Tim Bresnan could be fit for first test of the return Ashes series next month, he told reporters in Perth on Saturday.
Bresnan travelled to Australia with the squad, which will be completed when Kevin Pietersen arrives on Sunday, despite suffering a stress fracture in his back which ruled him out of the final test of the first Ashes series at the Oval.
England won that series 3-0 to retain the famous urn and their quest for a fourth straight triumph would certainly be bolstered by a Bresnan firing on all cylinders when the first test gets underway in Brisbane on November 21.
"He obviously plays a very key part in our side when he's fully fit and the reports from our medical team were that his best chance of recovery was with us," Cook told a news conference.
"That's why he's here and... hopefully he'll make some good progress but we'll only know when he starts to bowl again.
"I think he might be back bowling 100 percent by the first test, he might be, that's the kind of progress we'd hope to see from him,
"He's obviously going to have some bowling in matches before he goes into a test match. But we don't know how his back is going to react."
Bresnan took 11 wickets in two tests at the cost of 19 runs each in the last series in Australia in 2010-11 as England's bowlers helped humble the hosts 3-1 on home soil.
Cook will be looking for a similar contribution this time and said the warm-up matches would be a chance for Chris Tremlett, Steve Finn and Boyd Rankin to stake claims to be the third paceman in the test side along with James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
"I think Jimmy and Broady have done enough over their brilliant careers to be first choice bowlers," he said
"We tend to play three quicks so there is one place up for grabs. People have got to stick their hands up for selection. So if they do really well in these warm-up games, in the opportunities they get, they're going to put their name in."
Cook said he thought uncapped Irish-born Rankin, who towers over the likes of Bresnan at 6ft-7in (2.01m), would be perfect for hard, fast wickets like the WACA, where England play a three-day warm-up match next week.
"He's a big, tall lump and I think he can get the ball down at close to 90 miles an hour," Cook said.
"I think you can see from the selection of the squad, we think pace and bounce will be quite crucial on Australian wickets.
"Very, very skilful shorter bowlers can have success but in general, pace and bounce is quite key. He certainly gives us that option."
Cook said Australian bowling coach David Saker signing a new deal to keep him in the England set-up until 2015 was a "big bonus" and the call-up of Essex seamer Tymal Mills was to give the batsmen practice against left-arm bowling.
(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John O'Brien)