Aussie bowler Bird lands debut for 2nd Sri Lanka Test
MELBOURNE (AFP) –
Australian quick Jackson Bird will make his debut in the Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka, selectors said on Monday, while skipper Michael Clarke was given more time to prove his fitness.
Lanky right-armer Bird will line up alongside strike bowler Peter Siddle with Mitchell Starc controversially rested as part of Cricket Australia’s rotation policy.
Mitchell Johnson replaces the injured Ben Hilfenhaus and spinner Nathan Lyon retains his place as Australia look to make it 2-0 in the three Test series after winning the opener in Hobart last week by 137 runs.
Australian coach Mickey Arthur said Bird was in great form and deserved his chance.
“He brings line and length,” Arthur said. “He brings pressure, he swings the ball out, he brings some nice pace, he’s got all the attributes for a good quick bowler.”
Bird built a strong case for selection with 80 wickets in his 14 Sheffield Shield matches for Tasmania at 17.54 and has snared 14 of those in two matches at the MCG at 12.07.
“I’m going to open the bowling so I’m looking forward to that,” Bird said.
“I feel like I’m ready for Test cricket.”
Starc misses out despite bowling superbly in Hobart with Arthur saying he was being rested ahead of a gruelling 2013 schedule.
“Mitch is our one quick bowler who stars in all three forms of the game,” he said. “We’ve got such a lot of important cricket coming up and Mitch will be integral to that.”
In a tweet, Starc said: “Absolutely shattered – Massive game, good luck to Birdy on debut, he will do an amazing job!”
Clarke was named to captain the team after batting in the nets Monday, but concern remains over his fitness after he strained a hamstring in the Hobart Test.
Clarke faced throw-downs from assistant coach Stuart Law in the nets under the watchful eye of Arthur and then took a break before batting again against bowlers including Johnson.
Arthur said the skipper would also train on Tuesday with a decision on whether he plays left as long as possible.
“He’s clearly improving. He went far better today than he did yesterday,” Arthur said of a player who has reclaimed the top spot in the latest ICC Test batsman rankings.
“If I was a betting man I’d bet on Michael Clarke leading the team out on Boxing Day. It will be a consultation between Michael and Alex (team physio Alex Kountouris).”
In a column for the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Clarke said he was confident of padding up on Wednesday.
“I love playing at the MCG in the biggest Test of the year but I have never done it justice,” he said
“I’m still searching for my first hundred there and will be doing everything in my power to make sure it comes this week.
“That has included working overtime with our team physiotherapist Alex Kountouris to make sure my hamstring is right for Boxing Day.
“I only suffered a minor twinge while batting in Hobart and remain confident that I will be fine to play,” he added.
Clarke has had an extraordinary season, scoring 1,489 runs at 106.35 and is just 55 runs adrift of Ricky Ponting‘s Australian record of 1,544 in a calendar year.
If he fails to recover, his place will go to Usman Khawaja, with Shane Watson assuming the captaincy.
Australia – Michael Clarke (capt), David Warner, Ed Cowan, Phil Hughes, Shane Watson, Mike Hussey, Matt Wade, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Nathan Lyon, Jackson Bird, Usman Khawaja