Andrew Flintoff has returned to the nets "fit and strong", according to Lancashire cricket manager Mike Watkinson.
But after previous attempts to regain full fitness ended in further injury to the England all-rounder, Watkinson has called for the 30-year-old to be managed carefully to avoid another breakdown.
Flintoff was pictured bowling apparently unhindered in a nets session in Sharjah on Wednesday, ahead of his county's participation in the ARCH Trophy - in which they will play the UAE, Essex, Sussex and Yorkshire over the next eight days.
It is the first time he has bowled outdoors since a fourth ankle operation in October, raising hopes that he could make a full return in time for the start of the domestic season.
But a cautious Watkinson said:
"He's fit and strong and that's all you can ask for. It's the forces of bowling which seem to catch many people out and he's not the first to suffer injury as a fast bowler on very hard surfaces.
"He was fit and strong last time around and suffered a bit of a setback, so I think we've got to manage his workload. His enthusiasm and confidence are sky high at the moment, so I wish him well with it."
News of Flintoff's improving fitness will be a particular boost for anyone with a vested interest in the England team, given the loss of form of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard - both of whom have been dropped for the second Test with New Zealand which starts tonight.
But Watkinson will resist any attempt to rush him back into the national set-up, and admits he will play only a limited role in the middle east.
"He probably won't play in every game and if he plays in three games he'll probably only bowl in a couple of them because we don't want to do too much, too soon,"
he added on Sky Sports News.
"We've got a programme established working closely with (England bowling coach) Kevin Shine at the ECB.
"Let's hope his progress is gradual and it means we get a fit, strong bowler at the start of the season."
County team-mate Dominic Cork has also called for a patient approach.
"A lot of English cricketers like to be rushed back into the side. Take your time - he's got a long time left in his career, he's obviously had problems,"
"I think with the medical staff here, and himself, he should make a sensible decision that will hopefully last a long time."