Australia skipper Tim Paine is set to undergo neck surgery but team medicos remain confident the veteran will be fit for the Ashes.
Paine was slated to start his Sheffield Shield campaign on September 28, when Tasmania face Queensland in Brisbane.
The wicketkeeper is instead expected to be sidelined in the early stages of the domestic season.
Australia are upbeat Paine will be cleared to resume training by the end of this month, and that he may be able to squeeze in at least one Shield game before linking up with the Test squad.
The Ashes are slated to start on December 8, giving the 36-year-old plenty of time to prove his fitness for the Gabba series opener.
However, any form of setback could cast doubt on Paine’s prospects of facing England.
Paine, who required seven rounds of surgery to repair a recurring finger injury that started in 2010 and threatened to end his career, has demonstrated plenty of stoicism in recent years.
But it is understood his current neck issue requires an operation.
Paine and teammates haven’t played a Test since suffering an unforgettable loss to India at the Gabba in January.
Australia are scheduled to host Afghanistan in a one-off Test, starting November 27 in Hobart, but that match is set to be scrapped because the Taliban’s stance regarding women’s sport.
Cricket Australia is likely to schedule an alternate Ashes tune-up but it remains unclear whether it will be an intra-squad contest, tour game involving England, or replacement Test.