TIM BRESNAN last night handed England a pre-Ashes boost by outlining his fierce determination to play a full part in the forthcoming Test series Down Under.
The Yorkshire pace bowler has been sidelined with a stress fracture of the back since early August and was not one of the 17 players selected to tour.
However, the 28-year-old, who is still travelling with the squad to continue his rehabilitation, is now hopeful of being involved in the warm-up games ahead of the first Test in Brisbane on November 21.
England play a three-day match against a Western Australian XI at Perth (October 31-November 2), followed by four-day fixtures against Australia A in Hobart (November 6-9) and a New South Wales XI at Sydney (November 13-16).
“The earliest I could be returning, from what I’m being told, is one of the warm-up games,” said Bresnan.
“Obviously I’m not a medic, but my understanding is that one of the warm-up matches is not out of the question.
“I hope to be fit for the first Test, and I’d love to play in all five Tests.
“I’m always confident, always optimistic.”
Bresnan, whose injury kept him out of the fifth and final Test of the home series with Australia, has made excellent progress towards full fitness.
However, his optimism is tempered by a note of realism.
“Whether my back allows me to play all five Tests, if selected, is a different story,” he said.
“We’re slightly ruled by how it reacts to the first couple of sessions, and it’s very much one that we have to play by ear quite a bit.
“It could be as late as the second Test when I’m actually available for selection in a Test match, and it all depends where Andy Flower (the England team director) is coming from as well.
“We’ve got a lot of cricket coming up in the future, so if he feels like holding me back then that’s his prerogative.”
Bresnan said the injury “never even felt like a stress fracture” and said he had been following a programme of steady rehabilitation.
But the moment of truth will only come when he starts bowling properly.
“Stress fractures are notoriously difficult to rehab,” he added.
“Sometimes, you can have them and hardly get up the stairs; other times you might not even be aware of them for a number of years and yet still keep playing.
“But all the signs point to the fact that it’s going really well. So much so, I’ve not really felt the injury since the last time I bowled.”
Bresnan’s intense desire to get back on the park is heightened by the fact he has happy memories of playing in Australia.
When England last toured in 2010-11, he took the Ashes-clinching wicket in the fourth Test at Melbourne.
“I’ve got great memories of that series and it’s something I will cherish when I look back on my career,” he said.
“Now we’re going down there to create some more of those memories.
“It’s going to be different in their own backyard, there’s no doubt about that. But it doesn’t really matter what pitches they produce; it’s the team that adapts quickest that is going to come through.”
The fact England did not pick Bresnan in their original 17 yet are still taking him along for the ride, so to speak, highlights how important he is to them.
He is a no-nonsense character, a steadying influence; an England team with Bresnan feels somehow more secure.
“I like to see myself as Mr Reliable,” he admitted. “I’d like to think you know exactly what you’re going to get from me.
“If you put a brick wall in front of me, I’ll run through it. That’s the sort of mentality I’ve got.”
Bresnan forms part of a strong Yorkshire axis in the England tour party, which includes county colleagues Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance.
He believes it is a proud state of affairs for the White Rose club.
“It’s great for Yorkshire to have four lads in the squad,” he commented.
“That’s a big pat on the back for the coaching staff at Yorkshire – Martyn Moxon, Jason Gillespie, Ian Dews and the guys who run the Academy.
“Obviously we’ve seen Joe and Jonny come to the fore recently, and now it’s great that Gary Ballance is in the squad too.
“He’s a top-quality player who’s proved exactly what he can do for Yorkshire, and I think his technique is suited to Australian conditions as well.”
After a difficult few weeks, Bresnan is just delighted to be part of it all.
“I’m excited to be going out there,” he said.
“A month ago, it was touch-and-go whether I’d even make the trip out there.
“I’m grateful that England have placed their faith in me.”
Tim Bresnan is an ambassador for ASDA Kwik Cricket, the largest grass roots cricket competition in the UK, involving 14,000 primary school teams.
ASDA is now in its eighth year of sponsorship of the National Kwik Cricket competition, which helps primary school children across the UK live a healthy and active lifestyle.