Sydney: Australia paceman Mitchell Starc is well on his way back to fitness and has warned England not to write off the tourists' chances of wrenching back the Ashes in July and August. The tall left-armer, who left Australia's calamitous tour of India early to have surgery on his ankle, is expected to play a key role in the first of two Ashes series this year on England's swing-friendly pitches.
Selected for the tour alongside fellow quicks James Pattinson, Ryan Harris, Peter Siddle and Jackson Bird, Starc will form part of a bowling unit expected to have to play out of their skins to make up for Australia's fragile batting. England won the last series convincingly 3-1 in Australia in 2010/11 and are strong favourites to retain the urn on home soil, especially after the Australians were drubbed 4-0 in India. Starc, however, is confident his first Ashes action will not be in a losing cause.
"Obviously they're pretty confident at the moment with some of the things I've been hearing," the 23-year-old told Sydney's Daily Telegraph. "We'll go in as underdogs, but we'll take that tag and run with it. We have a good chance to show our doubters how good we can be and come back with that urn.
"We're going over to win, there's no other reason we're going over. We've had our doubters, but we'll go over to win and we'll compete very strongly." Starc made his international debut in a one-dayer against India in Visakhapatnam in October 2010 but bone spurs in the same ankle prevented him from playing any part in the Ashes and limited overs World Cup that Australian summer.
Having had a second operation on the joint in March, Starc is confident he will be firing on all cylinders come June's Champions Trophy, which precedes the Ashes series in England. "I've got more range in it now than I have had for three or four years since my first operation," Starc added of the ankle.
"It's feeling good and I'm easing back into it, but starting to ramp it up now with bowling next week. I've still got a couple of weeks up my belt to be ready to go for that first game in England. "It's all been in the gym and fitness work and getting right to run again, but hopefully I'll bowl next week off a few steps. (I'm) taking a pretty aggressive approach on it, but I'm feeling good and I'm sure it will hold up."