Ben Stokes says he is “definitely on course” to bowl in the first Ashes Test against Australia at Edgbaston.
The England captain did not bowl in England’s 10-wicket win against Ireland at Lord’s as he manages a persistent problem with his left knee.
But Stokes, who turns 32 on Sunday, did bowl for the first time in four weeks before play on Saturday.
“Bowling in the warm-up was a first step,” said Stokes. “I’m happy, so I’ll keep building it up before Edgbaston.”
The first Test in the five-match series against Australia begins on 16 June.
“I am definitely on course to bowl in the first Test,” Stokes told Test Match Special.
Stokes also did not play a part with the ball in England’s previous Test, a defeat by New Zealand in Wellington in February.
He subsequently played only two matches for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League, sending down just one over.
At Lord’s against the Irish, he became the first captain in the history of Test cricket to preside over a victory without batting, bowling or keeping wicket.
He was also in visible discomfort when he took a catch to dismiss Curtis Campher off the bowling of Joe Root.
“It was never my intention to bowl in this game,” he said. “I landed awkwardly when I took that catch and twisted in a strange way, but it was fine.”
Stokes also dismissed any suggestion he would not play in the Ashes if he is unable to bowl, saying “it’s not something we’ve even spoken about”.
England finally wrapped up victory after tea on the third day, following a spirited Irish fightback.
When the visitors lost their sixth second-innings wicket, effectively a seventh because of an injury to James McCollum, they were still 190 runs adrift of making England bat again.
But number eight Andrew McBrine made a classy unbeaten 86 and number nine Mark Adair a thumping 88 to at least push Ireland into the lead.
England eventually needed 11, scored by Zak Crawley in just four balls, to give Stokes’ side their 11th win in 13 Tests.
They will now look to win back the Ashes for the first time since 2018. Australia have won two and drawn one of the past three series, but have not won in the UK since 2001.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan said Stokes’ captaincy is “worth its weight in gold”, but it is “so important” the skipper is able to bowl against the Australians.
“It’s not just the impact he can have in terms of his bowling but the rest that it allows for the rest of the attack,” said Vaughan.
This summer’s series is perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Ashes contest in this country since Vaughan famously led England to victory in the epic series of 2005.
The biggest source of intrigue comes from England’s ultra-aggressive style of batting going up against an Australian bowling attack that is arguably the best in the world.
“It’s the Ashes, it’s drama,” added Vaughan. “England have played a brand of cricket that makes us desperate to see how this batting line-up goes against an Australian attack that has got pace, skill and variation.”
Stokes, who will lead England in an Ashes series for the first time, said: “It would be wrong for me to say we’re not excited because Ashes series are a bigger occasion.
“We’ll go out there and try to do what we have been doing for the past year.”