Both England and Australia will need several fast-bowling options for a busy Ashes schedule due to ageing attacks and recent injury scares.
England have named veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad in their XI for the opening Test which gets under way at Edgbaston on Friday.
Australia, who recently won their World Test Championship final against India at The Oval, are on a punishing programme of six Tests in eight weeks, AFP reports.
England earlier this month warmed up for the five-game Ashes with a 10-wicket win against Ireland in a one-off Test at Lord’s.
The hosts boast the two most successful quicks in Test history, but it appears unlikely the pair will both play every match.
Anderson, who will turn 41 during the fifth and final Test, has been the spearhead of the attack for nearly two decades and has formed a potent new-ball combination with Broad, but the Ashes schedule can be particularly tough on fast bowlers.
Modern fitness methods allied to long experience as Test specialists have helped Broad and Anderson keep bowling at an age when most of their predecessors had long retired.
Broad’s 37th birthday is next week, between the first two Tests.
But with the threat of injuries — express quick Jofra Archer is out of the series with an elbow problem and the rapid Mark Wood’s career has been blighted by injuries — Anderson knows England are unlikely to field the same pace attack in every Test.
“I think playing all five is a little bit optimistic, and not just for myself,” said Anderson, who said featuring in three of the games is more realistic.
England will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2019 Ashes opener at Edgbaston, where Anderson broke down with a calf injury after bowling just four overs in a match the hosts lost by 251 runs.
Both Anderson and fast-medium seamer Ollie Robinson were rested from the Ireland match to ensure they were fit for Edgbaston following niggling injuries.
Australia, unusually, are being captained by a fast bowler in Pat Cummins, with the 30-year-old confidently predicting: “I’ll be aiming to play all six (Tests).”
– ‘Fresh, ready to go’ –
History is threatening to repeat itself for Josh Hazlewood, who missed the start of the 2019 Ashes in Birmingham following an injury lay-off before featuring later in the series.
Four years ago, Australia opted for the slightly slower but remorselessly accurate seamer in Peter Siddle.
It could be a similar story this week, with Scott Boland competing against Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc, whose left-arm angle is a real point of difference, for a place in Australia’s attack.
The 34-year-old Boland has taken 33 wickets in just eight Tests at the staggeringly low average of 14.57.
And those figures may mean even the world-class Hazlewood, with 222 wickets from 59 Tests, has to bide his time, with injuries restricting the 32-year-old in recent years.
“No doubt you still want to play every game and it’s hard to sit on the sidelines and watch,” Hazlewood, who missed the WTC final, told the Guardian.
“But potentially if you bowl back-to-back Tests and you bowl 50 overs and you’ve got some of Boland, Starc or myself on the bench, fresh, ready to go ready for the next Test… the guys are more open to it.”
Australia could also call upon Michael Neser, who has been starring for Welsh club Glamorgan in the County Championship, as a potential replacement quick later in the series.