By Martin Gough
BBC Sport with the Ashes teams
If you need an indication of just how strong Australia are, try and imagine any other team leaving Brett Lee on the sidelines for 18 months.
BRETT LEE FACTFILE
Born: 8/11/1976, Wollongong, NSW
139 wkts at 31.66, best 5/47
One-day int'ls: 112
200 wkts at 22.16, best 5/27
The world's second-fastest bowler behind Shoaib Akhtar, Lee has taken 63 one-day international wickets at an impressive average of 23.74 since playing his last Test against India in January 2004.
That is sufficient to see him ranked the fourth-best one-day bowler in the world, five places above England's leading man Steve Harmison.
But Australia have kept Lee straining at the leash to add to his 37 Test caps, and he has not taken the rejection lightly.
"There are times when you think you've done enough to get back in and you wake up next morning, the team's announced and you haven't been chosen," he says.
"It's depressing; it's like someone gets a knife and puts it through your heart.
"It's been a very frustrating, very tough 18 months."
If the last month of that Test exile has been any indication, Lee will take his frustration out on England's top order in the first Test.
In seven one-day matches between the two sides he has bowled with pace and venom, most obviously when he took 5-41 in the penultimate game at Lord's.
"Brett's been bowling especially well in the one-dayers and just can't wait to get out there in the Test arena," says Aussie veteran Glenn McGrath.
"He's probably keener than he's ever been to get into the Test arena.
"He offers something no other guy in our attack can offer - that sheer pace. I think he can offer something really special."
Some believe Lee was kept out of Test cricket as part of a specific plan to have him frothing at the mouth for the Ashes.
More practically, he lost his place while struggling for form after ankle surgery and his replacement, Michael Kasprowicz, has exceeded expectations.
But both Kasprowicz and Jason Gillespie have looked fallible during the tour so far and are likely to compete for the third place in the attack.
"The FBC, the Fast Bowling Cartel, are a very tight unit," says Lee.
"It's tough to read in the paper that we're competing for one spot but it makes us work harder and it's great that we've got depth."
From being the 12th name on the team sheet, Lee is likely to be one of the first as the Ashes get underway.
And he believes the bowler likely to take the new ball at Lord's is a vast improvement on his last incarnation in the Test side.
"The past 18 months, as much as it may be hard to admit, have been a great learning curve," says Lee.
"I think I've matured a lot as a person and as a cricketer. I know my body a lot better than I did two years ago.
"Whether holding a player back and unleashing them on a certain team will be beneficial to the player we'll have to wait and see."
Lee is full of praise for England's bowlers - he mentions Steve Harmison and Andrew Flintoff as men who stand out - but he is also full of self-confidence.
"It's the first time in a number of decades that both teams have been so close to being level," he continues.
"We've got two great sides coming up against each other and I can tell you there's going to be fireworks Thursday morning."
If Lee gets his way, those fireworks are going to come from him.