Brett Lee has flown to South Africa in a bid to advance his comeback from ankle surgery, and will seek to train with the touring Australian one-day side in the coming days. Lee's trip across the Indian Ocean comes amid speculation he could be in the frame for a surprise recall to the Australian squad for the limited-overs series against Pakistan, which is expected to be named on Wednesday.
A move to reinstate Lee for the series in the United Arab Emirates was considered highly unlikely last month, given that he has not played a match since undergoing surgery to his left ankle in January. But an intense training regime - he has worked with a personal trainer six days a week since the beginning of February and added 10kg of lean muscle mass - has accelerated his recovery, and medical staff are understood to be impressed with the progress he has made.
Lee is not guaranteed to be recalled to the squad for the Pakistan series, but the fact he has entered selection calculations indicates he is nearing full fitness. Should Andrew Hilditch's panel opt for the more conservative approach and overlook him for the three-week one-day series, Lee is likely to make his return to competitive cricket with the Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, as originally planned.
He has been confined to bowling indoors in recent weeks as Australian cricket fields have been turned over to the nation's various football codes. The opportunity to train outside is understood to have been the driving force behind his journey to South Africa, and Lee will continue his rehabilitation programme under the supervision of the New South Wales physiotherapist Pat Farhart, who has made the trip with him.
The progress of Lee, and Australia's wavering one-day form in South Africa, will prompt a nervous wait for the incumbents ahead of Wednesday's squad announcement for the Pakistan series. The top order was ruthlessly exposed by the South African pace duo of Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell in Centurion on Sunday, and none have a chance to make amends before the selectors meet.
Andrew Symonds will be available for selection after satisfying the conditions placed upon him by Cricket Australia following a series of behavioural infractions. Still rated among the world's premier exponents of the one-day game, and a key ally of Ricky Ponting, Symonds is favoured to be recalled to a side in desperate need of a top-order spark.