England have been given a timely lift for the first Ashes Test with injured batsman Ian Bell successfully coming through his fitness test at the Gabba.
Warwickshire batsman Bell provided the tourists with a major injury scare yesterday when he was hit on the left wrist batting in the nets against James Anderson.
An x-ray revealed he had suffered heavy bruising from the blow, but Bell practised for some time at today’s net session to virtually guarantee his place in England’s line-up for tomorrow’s opening Test.
He will be monitored for any reaction to today’s session in the morning, but it looks almost certain he will retain his place and avoid Middlesex’s Ed Joyce being pressed into his Test debut in dramatic circumstances.
Bell’s eagerness to prove his fitness is a common theme throughout the England squad, who are desperate to end the long wait for another crack at Australia 14 months after their historic series win in 2005.
"The hype surrounding this series seems to have been going on for ages and now we’re one day away from what could be the biggest series ever," said captain Andrew Flintoff. "Myself and the team just want to get started. There has been a lot written and a lot said and now it’s time to get out onto the pitch and play some cricket.
"It’s nice that it’s all come to an end almost and we can actually get out there and have a bat and a bowl.
"2005 was a huge achievement for us and to have an opportunity to defend the Ashes out here in Australia is going to be even bigger - it would be good to back it up with a good performance this time around."
Bell’s successful practice session this morning leaves England with just one dilemma to solve - which of their two left-arm spinners should complete their attack.
Monty Panesar has provided a compelling case for his inclusion with 32 wickets in his opening 10 Tests, but Warwickshire's Ashley Giles is a proven performer over some time and is a better batsman even though he has not played in a year after hip and hernia problems.
Whoever is selected can expect rousing support from the thousands of England fans who have made the trip out to Brisbane and have made the city feel like a home from home for the team.
"I went out for dinner last night and had a walk around Brisbane with the family and the amount of people I bumped into from Preston or wherever has been amazing - it’s almost like I’m at home!" added Flintoff.
"The fans have supported us now for a long time and this series is something they’re very excited about. You get a sense of that just by speaking to people or seeing them walking around in their England shirts."
England are not expected to make an announcement about their final line-up until tomorrow morning, but Giles is regarded as a slight favourite for the final place.