HOVE (England) (AFP) - Australia captain Ricky Ponting said fast bowler Brett Lee was "jumping out of his skin" in his quest to get back in the Test side ahead of the Ashes series in England. Lee played the last of his 76 Tests back in December before undergoing foot and ankle surgery.Once the leader of Australia's attack, the 32-year-old Lee, who has taken 310 Test wickets at an average of just over 30 apiece, now finds himself vying for a spot in the team alongside the likes of Ben Hilfenhaus, Mitchell Johnson, Stuart Clark and Peter Siddle. Australia have two matches, against Sussex here at Hove starting on Wednesday and the England Lions, before the first Ashes Test gets underway in Cardiff on July 8.And Ponting, speaking at Hove here on Monday, said of Lee: "He's looking good at the moment. He's trained harder than I've ever seen him train before in the last couple of weeks, whether it would be with his bowling or in the gym or all the extra stuff he's been doing."Anyone that lays eyes on him can see how good a physical shape he is in, which is a real positive for us and a real positive for him." I know he's jumping out of his skin to get back out there on Wednesday and start playing again. It's important for him and all our bowlers to take what opportunities come their way in the next couple of weeks. "We've got some big selections to be made there as far as the make-up goes for the first Test. All the guys know that," the star batsman, Australia's captain when they lost the Ashes in England four years ago, added. "We've got two games, it's not as if it's going to be an out-and-out bowl-off or bat-off between any players. I just want to see what everyone's got in these conditions and what they can deliver for the team." Australia ended up with more training time than they had planned for following their first round exit from the World Twenty20 in England earlier this month.But an upbeat Ponting said his team were on course to defend successfully the Ashes they'd so emphatically regained under his leadership following their 5-0 series win on home soil in 2006-07 "We are just coming together nicely, we've been training well and we are just looking forward to getting the Ashes underway. There's a lot of excitement around. So far, everything's off to a good start for us."