Lee is back up and running

Nielsen and Clarke hope to use seamer in final Chapal Cup encounter against Pakistan.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES ñ May 1 : Brett Lee during the practice at Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi. (Pawan Singh / The National)
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ABU DHABI // Brett Lee made a brief appearance on the square of Abu Dhabi's Zayed Stadium on Friday night and did enough in that short stint to suggest that a return to the Australian team in competitive action this afternoon is a strong possibility.

Tim Nielsen, the coach of the touring Australians, had suggested before the Chapal Cup clinching victory over Pakistan that his main strike bowler might be kept waiting until Thursday's Twenty20 confrontation between the two nations at Dubai Sports City to make his return. Lee's encouraging performances in UAE net practice since he was told to abandon his duties with Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League and the fact that the five-match one-day international series has now been won suggest the comeback is imminent.

Michael Clarke, captain of the touring Australians in the absence of their normal leader Ricky Ponting, remarked: "Fingers crossed, he can play on Sunday," before adding that Lee would be a guaranteed starter on Thursday if he does not play in today's final clash of the tournament. It makes more sense to give Lee, who is recovering from ankle surgery, a maximum of 10 overs today, rather than a maximum of four overs in a slogfest on Thursday, as the Aussies focus on this year's priority of retaining the Ashes in England in the late summer.

Lee was a key figure in the last series in England four years ago and, with bat rather than ball, almost snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the tourists. Clarke, who watched Lee bowling fairly quickly during the tea interval of Friday's match, added: "It's good to see Brett back. He has been an amazing cricketer for Australia. He is not far off now." Nielsen, who makes no attempt to conceal that he already has one eye on the Ashes series and avoiding a repeat of the 2005 defeat in England, said before Friday's match: "It's good news that Brett is ready to go again.

"All the boys were glad to welcome him back into the fold." @Email:wjohnson@thenational.ae