Worcestershire paceman Josh Tongue is making quicker than expected progress in his recovery from a back problem.
County Academy product Tongue suffered a stress reaction in one of his lumbar vertebrae and was expected to be side-lined for three months from the start of May.
But he is several weeks ahead of schedule and it is hoped the 18-year-old may be able to play in a second team game later this month.
Tongue made his senior debut in the first class game with Oxford MCCU in April before aggravating his lower back in a second team game.
Worcestershire first team physiotherapist Ben Davies said: "Josh has done really well in his rehab. For the last six or seven weeks, he has done two sessions a day, has been meticulous in his approach and just done everything possible to try and settle this injury down as quick as we can.
"We've got to the point where he's been pain free for two or three weeks and the next stage is getting back into running and having a bowl.
"We have put a three week return to bowling plan together which incorporates gym work, a nice gradual increase in his bowling workload and we are hoping in three weeks time he might be back in the second team which would be four or five weeks earlier than we originally hoped.
"We are really happy with him. He bowled his first over last week in the nets. We've been building him up with pre-hab and power sessions so we were pretty confident he could have a go.
"He has been getting through everything so we said 'right, let's try him, we'll give him a gradual build-up over three weeks.'"
Tongue is another player to return ahead of schedule, mirroring the way first team keeper Ben Cox was back quicker than originally planned from a shoulder operation this winter.
Davies said: "I think to be honest the conditioning they've got before the injuries a lot of the time helps to get them back a bit quicker.
"If you've got someone who is very well conditioned and got real strength and power before they get injured, you actually find they can get back a little bit quicker. We are pro-active in what we do."