Australian fast bowler Ryan Harris is on track to be fully fit in time for the first Ashes Test against England at the beginning of July.

The veteran quick was forced to miss Australia's recent two-Test tour of the West Indies due to the birth of his child, but Harris will now look to up his game time after his latest lay-off with knee problems. Now preparing to head off to England to join up with the rest of the Australian squad ahead of the first Test in Cardiff, Harris will take part in two games for the Ageas Bowl Elite Cricket Academy against a Hampshire 2nd XI following his arrival.

From there, the Aussie selectors will be hoping the 35-year-old reports to them in the best possible shape, ready to try and help the tourists win an Ashes series on English soil for the first time since 2001.

Having struggled with knee problems throughout his career, Harris has been out of action for large spells ever since the last Ashes series, where he had played a crucial role in the Aussies’ 5-0 destruction of England Down Under.

In his 12 Ashes Tests, Harris has recorded 57 wickets at an impressive average of 20.63, 24 of which came in 2013 when Australia was last in England. While the tourists returned home without anything to show for their efforts, the way they dominated the last Ashes has ensured the Aussies will start this series at around 4/11 with bet365 to retain the urn at the end of the five Test matches.

Harris and Mitchell Johnson might not be as young as they once were but the fast bowling duo, alongside Mitchell Starc, are expected to hold the key to Australia's hopes of making it back-to-back Ashes wins.

Another player who has been forced to carefully work his way back to full fitness in time for the upcoming Ashes has been Australian captain Michael Clarke, who has been through as tough a 12 months of Test cricketer as possible.

As well as battling his troublesome hamstring, the Aussie skipper was the face of the cricketing world during the devastating death of his close friend, Phillip Hughes. But in another display of incredible mental strength, Clarke put his problems to one side to lead Australia to World Cup glory earlier this year, and guiding this team to a second successive Ashes victory would be a remarkable achievement for the 34-year-old.

While Australia has been busy re-establishing itself as the dominant force in world cricket, England's fall from grace has been somewhat spectacular. But after all the public disagreements, sackings and disappointing defeats, Alastair Cook and his men appear to be showing some signs that this Ashes series might be much more competitive than a lot expect.

With some exciting youngsters coming into the Test side, the English will be hoping that all the negative press surrounding them over the past year will have led Australia to have underestimated the threat they pose.