Three of the best fast bowlers in the world will play Second XI cricket this month as they continue their returns from long-term injuries.
Test quicks Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins confirmed yesterday they will join James Pattinson in the second-tier Future's League competition in the coming weeks, with the NSW pair aiming to make their international returns in next month's ODI series against South Africa.
Pattinson made the first tentative steps back from his latest injury in Victoria's second XI game in Adelaide this week, scoring a century on day one and bowling four overs on the second day.
And Hazlewood and Cummins, who were cleared to return in the JLT One-Day Cup earlier this month, revealed on Tuesday they will miss the early rounds of the JLT Sheffield Shield and ease back into long-form cricket via NSW's second XI.
"The Shield starts next week, but I'm going to play a couple of second XI games, at least one, over the next few weeks," Hazlewood said at the launch of Fox Cricket in Sydney.
"It'll be a good opportunity to get out in the middle and we can manipulate how many overs we bowl in each innings.
"(We can) keep it quite specific to what we need."
Playing a lower-grade of red-ball cricket instead of a Shield game will allow the pair to gradually lift their bowling intensity ahead of the ODI series with an aim to return to the first-class arena in November.
Following their Future's League stint, the pair will look to Australia's one-day series against the Proteas from November 4-11 before playing at least one Shield game ahead of the first Test against India, which starts on December 6.
Cummins says the meticulously-planned build-up to the Indian series is the reason behind his absence from the three-match T20 series against Pakistan later this month.
"We prioritised trying to get some overs into me before a big summer," he said. "I don't want to be underdone.
"I'll play a couple of second XI games, get some overs in and get really right for the ODIs. I think there's about a two or three-week gap between end of the ODIs and the first Test so (I'll play) at least one Shield game, maybe two. It's a pretty nice build up.
"It's a progression in our build-up. I feel like we're in a really good place and ready to start bowling quite a few overs.
"(My body) feels great, it's been a really good few months. I had a full pre-season to get strong and fit and now I can slowly build up bowling how we want to and work on a few things.
"Once we start playing this summer, we couldn't have asked for a better preparation."
With six Tests, six ODIs and four T20s scheduled for this summer and a World Cup and Ashes tour on the horizon, Hazlewood conceded he and his fast-bowling teammates simply had no choice but to rest from some games.
"We obviously want to play every game, but that's just probably not possible for the next 18 months," he said.
"It's about missing a game here or there and getting some rest and recovery in and getting our strength back up. But we'd love to play every game."